Duke-Margolis Welcomes 2023 Postdoctoral Associate and Fellow

News Update

Duke-Margolis Welcomes 2023 Postdoctoral Associate and Fellow


August 25, 2023
Duke-Margolis welcomes new postdoctoral associate and health equity policy and primary care fellow. Kun Li, Gabriela Plasencia.

Family Medicine Physician Scientist is Duke’s Health Equity Policy & Primary Care Fellow


Dr. Gabriela Plasencia, a Duke family medicine physician scientist, aims to deploy health policy to improve care for marginalized populations. With her commitment to advancing health policy, health equity, and family medicine, Duke-Margolis and Duke Family Medicine and Community Health (FMCH) enthusiastically selected Gaby as the 2023-2024 Health Equity Policy and Primary Care Fellow.

A one-year fellowship sponsored collaboratively by Duke-Margolis and FMCH, this opportunity aims to help clinicians improve their practice by equipping them with knowledge and experience surrounding health equity and policy. Also a Duke National Clinician Scholar, Gaby is only the second Duke Health Equity Policy and Primary Care Fellow. The inaugural fellow, Dr. Cara Smith, worked throughout her fellowship to advance health equity policies for North Carolina’s underserved communities and is now pursuing a family medicine residency program in California.

“The Health Equity Policy and Primary Care Fellowship offers a truly remarkable experience in its partnership with the Duke-Margolis Center and the National Clinician Scholars Program,” says Dr. Anthony Viera, department chair of Duke Family Medicine and Community Health. “Dr. Cara Smith was an amazing inaugural fellow, and I am excited to have Dr. Gaby Plasencia stepping in as our next fellow!”

Gaby’s path toward working in health equity, primary care, and population health began with her family. From a young age, Gaby noticed a startling difference in her two grandmothers’ quality of life, despite them having similar conditions. One grandmother, living in Florida, was frequently sick and far less socially active. Her grandmother living in the Dominican Republic, however, was well enough to go out with her friends often. Both had dementia and a family history of dementia, but something about the health care the grandmother received in the Dominican Republic made a difference in her quality of life.

In the Dominican Republic, primary care and family medicine often overlap. The same doctor that cared for an individual also would care for their other family members. This method of primary care struck Gaby as a promising vehicle for population and public health, so she pursued this interest through her Masters in Applied Science (MAS) in Population Health Management from Johns Hopkins University and her medical degree from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

During her residency at Duke, she worked with Duke-Margolis Health Policy Fellow Andrea Thoumi on projects around the systemic exclusion of Latinx communities from COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and treatment. Gaby also has worked on other projects with LATIN-19 to improve health outcomes for Latinx populations in North Carolina.

The Health Equity Policy and Primary Care fellowship provides Gaby with the time and funding she needs to focus on her research, and she looks forward to making more progress toward her goals as a researcher and a clinician. Ultimately, Gaby aims to start a Latinx health equity research center. “I think there’s a lot of great collaboration already happening at Duke that isn’t funded,” she says. “The issue with that is sustainability . . . they don’t have the funding or protected time to do the research and community work. Creating some kind of structure to support collaboration over the long term is essential.”

Learn more about the fellowship here.



New Duke-Margolis Postdoctoral Associate Explores the Intersection of Economics and Health Policy


Recent PhD graduate Dr. Kun Li takes the next step in her career as the 2023-2025 Duke-Margolis Postdoctoral Associate. The Duke-Margolis Postdoctoral Program in Health Policy is a two-year experience that provides opportunities to apply academic and professional experiences to real-world health policy problems through original research. Kun’s interdisciplinary perspective and her dedication to improving patient outcomes through policy research made her this year’s top candidate for the program.

“We developed the Duke-Margolis postdoctoral program to offer hands-on research and policy experience for the nation’s next generation of health policy leaders. Kun exemplifies what we are looking for in a Duke-Margolis post-doc,” said Dr. Marianne Hamilton Lopez, Duke-Margolis Senior Research Director for Biomedical Innovation and faculty program director of the Duke-Margolis Postdoctoral and Affiliated Fellows Program. “Kun’s proven herself academically, is eager to learn and will be joining projects led by both our health care transformation research team and Sanford professor Dr. Kate Bundorf, and is passionate about transforming health care access and financing.  We’re looking forward to all that she will accomplish and all that she will learn as part of the program.”

Kun’s interest in health policy first arose during her undergraduate studies in China, where she majored in taxation. She worked as a research assistant on a project exploring the regulation of tobacco through tax policies, which sparked her interest in public health. Her mentor recommended that she continue to pursue the intersection between economics and health policy, so Kun earned a Master’s in International Economics and Finance from Johns Hopkins University and her doctorate in Health Policy from George Washington University.

Kun uses her background in economics to inform her analysis of the organization and operation of health care providers. Her research interests center on the impact of market incentives on health centers and the downstream effect on patient outcomes. Community health centers and safety net providers are of particular interest to Kun, as much of the existing research on these providers hasn’t been conducted from an economic perspective. Kun is interested in analyzing their financial positions, their operations, and how they compete with other providers.

“There are a lot of interesting policy issues with safety net providers, like payment methods, and there aren’t many current studies trying to do this kind of economic evaluation,” Kun says. “These providers are treating the most vulnerable population in the United States, so this is an important area of research.”

The Duke-Margolis postdoc program gives Kun the opportunity to work with the Center’s research teams who have longstanding health policy experience. She looks forward to working with members of the Health Care Transformation workstream who are currently pursuing ways to improve patient care through payment model reforms. Kun also hopes that her time with Duke-Margolis will help determine the course of her future, whether she continues in academia or explores opportunities in industry.

Learn more about the postdoctoral program here.