Ashley Cooney, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Humble. Ashley is a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine and is scheduled to be a member of the 2020 graduating class. Ashley plans to attend London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studying towards a MSc in Reproductive and Sexual  Health Research. Ashley’s under grad is from University of Texas at Austin.
Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholar Biography
My name is Ashley Cooney, and I am a third-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. I moved to Houston in 2016, a year of significant political unrest. As a first-year medical student, I wondered how the physician’s responsibility as patient advocate extended into the political climate. This led me to take an elective called “From the Clinic to the Capitol” drafting policy briefs that were presented to more than one hundred state legislators and their staffers in Austin during the 2017 Texas legislative session. My policy brief explored potential improvements to the health of human trafficking victims in the United States.
Throughout the process of researching, writing, and presenting my work, I learned several important lessons. First, I have a passion for women’s health, specifically those in marginalized and underserved populations. Currently, I am working with a team of like-minded individuals to open a clinic for survivors of human trafficking. This involves coordinating with several hospitals, clinics, and the Houston mayor’s office to obtain federal grant funding for our project as well as with working with local physicians and researchers to ensure that our clinic is effectively functioning to improve the health outcomes of this population. In addition to improving the health outcomes of trafficking survivors, I am also working to educate and empower young survivors to take charge of their physical and mental health. I have created a holistic curriculum of health literacy topics to educate child victims of sexual exploitation. Before medical school, I was a middle/high special education science teacher, and I have found a way to incorporate the teaching skills I enjoyed into a worthy population. Every month, I teach young women to be in command of their mental, physical, and emotional health at a youth safe house for sex trafficking survivors. While this work is not easy, I have found this work to be incredibly rewarding.
Secondly, I learned from my policy brief experience that it is paramount for physicians to be involved in the creation of health policy.  Legislators and policy makers need to hear from the professionals on the front lines of issues that real patients face. This includes policies from requiring children to ride in car seats to expanding the screening period for post-partum depression. Seemingly small changes can make enormous differences in the lives of patients, and, in my experience, legislators are eager to listen to doctors who are trying to make positive changes.
My hope is that I can further my knowledge and expertise both in women’s health and in the creation of health policy by pursuing the Masters of Science in Health Policy and Financing through the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The curriculum at this institution allows me to focus my degree around reproductive and maternal health issues, while learning how to make meaningful, large scale changes through legislative action. In my future career as an obstetrician/gynecologist, I hope to incorporate the knowledge I gain through the master’s program by caring for the underserved mothers in my community as a physician and working with local government to improve perinatal health policies for all women.