Winter Research Cohort Draws Students from U.S. and Canada to Research Health Inequalities

Winter '22 Research Cohort

Asbury Park, February 1, 2022 – Nine socially conscious high school students hailing from five high schools across Georgia, New Jersey, and Ontario, Canada have been welcomed as research associates for the Teen Think Tank Project’s Winter Cohort: Health Equity and Access to Care.   

Over the course of twelve weeks, the research associates will explore the economic, societal, legal, and political impediments that are preventing all Americans from accessing fair and equitable healthcare.  Through guided discussions, assigned readings, videos, podcasts, and guest lectures, the research associates will seek to understand the basic issues that are causing individuals to be denied necessary healthcare.  They will use this information to contemplate possible policy direction and draft a policy framework that can be used as a practical decision-making guide for individuals interested in breaking down barriers to timely, quality healthcare.    

Five of the research associates attend Somerset County Vocational and Technical High School (Bridgewater, NJ): Avantika Malla, Riya Mehta, Moksh Patwari, Vaanya Salwan, and Kimia Shahriyar.  Jeyven Chhina attends Mentor College (Ontario,CA), Keara Field attends McDonough High School (McDonough, GA), Gianna Grasso attends Colonia High School (Colonia, NJ), and Leyla Tiryaki attends Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School (Somerset, NJ).  The cohort is led by research coordinator and Teen Think Tank Project Co-founder, Matthew DeSantis.

“The Winter Research Cohort is a diverse group of outstanding students who have a keen interest in healthcare and medicine,” said DeSantis.  “The topic of health equity interests a lot of students, and we are thrilled to have assembled an exceptional cohort of teens who represent different backgrounds, geographies, and perspectives.  Their work to find real solutions will help them create change as they go forward in their academic and professional careers.”  

Although the research associates represent different states, high schools, ages, and interests, their passion to have a positive impact in the world unites them.  Riya Mehta says, “I want to be able to use my voice and platforms I’m provided with to help others who aren’t as fortunate as I am. My passion for medicine and social equality issues motivated me to join and enroll in this program.”  McDonough (GA) High School sophomore and cohort colleague, Keara Field, shares a similar sentiment. “I am passionate about [addressing] social justice issues because so many of them are a result of oppressive systems deeply ingrained in our society,” said Field. “So many people suffer from these issues because everyone ignores them, until someone calls for change.  I was motivated to enroll in this program because I saw it as a chance to get closer to being that someone.”

The research associates will have the opportunity to connect with and learn from industry experts and thought leaders, including: Connie Whitman, CEO of Whitman & Associates LLC, Kean University professors Bruce Waltuck, Dr. Bok Jeong & Dr. Ruthann Russo, social media health care activist Christy Snodgrass, RN, and policy advocates Dr. Laura Haselden from Impact in Healthcare & Benjamin Day from Healthcare Now, among others.   

The Teen Think Tank Project’s podcast, Here’s the Problem, coincides with the Winter Research Cohort’s studies by dedicating its third season to conversations on health equity and healthcare policy.  Each week, Teen Think Tank Project Co-founder Kelly Nagle talks with healthcare practitioners and thought leaders to understand the underlying problems of health disparities and explore solutions to the social, economic, and political impediments that create barriers to change.  The third season dropped January 24, 2022 and is available on all podcast platforms.

The Winter Research Cohort will conclude with a Policy Research Launch Party on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 when the research associates will share their research and policy recommendations to address health inequity.  The launch party will also award an outstanding research associate with a $500 college scholarship, thanks to the generosity of Perennis Financial Planning, LLC.  The virtual event will be open to the public.


Teen Think Tank Project is a student-run policy institute that fosters critical thinking, research techniques, and problem-solving skills to develop policy frameworks for real-life issues and empowers students to become future changemakers. Teens find their voice and create change at or @teen_thinktank.

Teen Think Tank Project and Perennis Financial Planning are separate entities and are not affiliated with LPL Financial.  


Contact Information:

Kelly Nagle, Co-founder and Vice Chair