With a passion for improving community health outcomes, Lara Fougnies believes that public health strategies are the most effective way to confront the root of health issues in the country.
Graduating with honors with a major in Public Health from the Bloustein School, Lara is one of 12 recipients of the 2023 Chancellor-Provost’s Leadership Award. She also completed minors in Public Policy and Health & Society and certificates in Global Health & Health Policy and Health Disparities.
“The interdisciplinary approach of the Bloustein School’s public health program helped me to gain an extensive understanding of the complex sociological, economic, and political influences that have significant consequences on the health of a community,” she said. “I am confident in my ability to tackle complex multi-faceted health problems in the United States.
The Chancellor-Provost’s Leadership Award is given to graduating seniors who exemplify excellence and embodies a commitment to leadership and involvement on campus and/or in the community. Nominees demonstrate that they have served in multiple campus leadership positions throughout their academic journey, having left a positive and lasting impression on the community through initiating, leading, or supporting projects of activism or advocacy for social justice, inclusion, and diversity in unique and innovative ways.
In addition to her academic studies, Lara has been serving as the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) Vice President since April 2022, chairing weekly meetings for prospective Rutgers students and meeting with Rutgers administrative leaders to advocate for change. She previously served as the Student Affairs Chair and SAS Senator, and was a member of RUSA’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery committee. She was also a Pandemic Task Force Intern at Eagleton Institute for Politics’ Miller Center on Policing and Community Resilience, helping execute strategic assessments of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the federal and state level to identify evidence-based policy decisions.
A Bloustein Honors Research Scholar, Lara was one of five undergraduates chosen to conduct in-depth research that aligns with the applied research of the Bloustein School faculty. Lara’s work focused on conducting an IRB-approved analysis to investigate whether, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, attitudes differed by state abortion policy landscape and socioeconomic characteristics.
“This is the first time in 50 years that abortion is no longer guaranteed at the federal level, leaving it up to individual states to decide,” Lara said. “The potential implications of this decision are far-reaching, not only for a woman’s right to bodily autonomy but also for maternal health in the U.S., which already lags behind other developed countries.”
Lara’s research highlighted the lower rates of awareness and approval following the overturning of Roe v. Wade of Americans with lower socioeconomic status in abortion-hostile states. She hopes that the findings of her study can be used to hold policymakers accountable while providing reproductive advocacy groups valuable information on which U.S. communities require the most support moving forward. Lara plans to submit her research for publication, showcasing her valuable contributions to the field of public health research.
Lara will be taking a gap year as she prepares to apply for medical school and also intends to pursue a Master’s in Public Health. She has fostered a lifelong love of science and a passion for public service and wants to blend her knowledge of clinical care with policy strategies. “I am looking forward to clinical work and a patient-focused realm in the medical field, but I also want to involve civic engagement in my medical career,” she said.
Later, Lara plans to join the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to serve underserved and vulnerable populations in the US, utilizing her public health and medical expertise to make a difference in people’s lives. As she progresses in her career, she aims to work in the government to address pertinent health issues impacting the country, advocating for systemic changes toward health equity to improve health outcomes across the United States.