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Home » Discover Rackham » Student Spotlight: Anne Fitzpatrick

Anne attended Cornell for her undergraduate degree and fully expected to return there for graduate work after working for a few years. “Then I came to visit Michigan and knew this was the place for me. There are so many resources here, the faculty are accessible, the people in Ann Arbor are cool, and this is a great place to live.” The fact that U-M is one of the few schools doing economic field experiments made this a better research fit for her as well.

Anne is focused on development economics, pursuing a doctoral degree because that is the lever for instituting change on the policy level. She says she had to act: “Once you see poverty of this kind, you never forget it. I want to do research that will improve access to quality health care in impoverished areas. There are things we can do. That is my motivating factor.”

Anne’s dissertation research focuses on low quality drugs and counterfeit medications in poor countries. She conducted field research in Uganda last year and in the process created a network of relationships with universities and non-profit organizations for future research collaborations. In one of her studies, she sent mystery shoppers to drug outlets to buy medicine used to treat malaria, the most common illness in Uganda and throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The medicine was shipped back to U-M for quality testing, and she used the data created to analyze price discrimination, low levels of customer information about treatment options, and correlates of counterfeit drugs. “There are deep, systemic issues affecting access to quality healthcare throughout the world. People are charged different prices, and specifically less informed and less educated patients are charged more – and this is exactly the group of people who are more likely to get malaria in the first place. In addition, there is evidence that vendors charge higher prices to customers who are not of their same tribe, a problem specific to Uganda.”

Funding has truly been the key to successful research, as local officials and other institutions in Uganda were suspicious of her work. “They wanted to know how my project was funded. The antimalarial drug market in developing countries can be political, and there are competing interests from local and donor governments in addition to pharmaceutical companies. Counterfeit medicines gave my work a political dimension that I did not appreciate until I was there. When I told them that all my work was funded by the University of Michigan, not from industry or the government, that alleviated concerns that I had a political or financial motivation for doing this research. The source of the funding for research studies in this context really made a large difference, and I’m grateful that the funding I’ve received has made this research possible and hopefully will increase its impact.”

After completing her doctoral degree, Anne hopes for a faculty position where she can continue her research in Uganda. “I’d like my current projects to be a springboard for other research projects.”