Mini-Episode 1 | Conversations with a Health Services Researcher (Former Factor Machinist, Community College Teacher, & Lifelong Social Activist), Dr. Joe Feinglass

Dear Skinny Trees Listeners: In an effort to keep our content fresh, creative, and appealing to a wide array of listeners, we decided to do our first mini-episode led by High School student and future scientist, Anika Jagasia. Anika coordinated this interview, wrote the questions, developed content, wrote the post that you will read below, and compiled the show notes. We are so impressed by the younger generation’s ability to be adaptable, innovative, and creative in so many ways that we ourselves cannot even imagine. We wanted this venue to support those efforts, while still staying true to our intent for Skinny Trees. You will see what we mean when you listen to this episode and read below. Please enjoy our first Skinny Trees mini-episode with Anika Jagasia and Dr. Joe Feinglass, a Health Services Researcher at Northwestern University. – Jen & Shaneah, your Skinny Trees Co-Hosts

What do you visualize when someone mentions their office? I (Anika Jagasia) envision a classic cubicle or a small room just big enough to fit a desk, a comfortable swivel chair, and some open walls to hang one’s certificates.

While I was mentally practicing the questions I would ask with Dr. Feinglass, a health services researcher and advocate in health care policy, I stepped into his office Immediately, I lost my train of thought. Dr. Feinglass’ office is the most unique office I have ever seen. Starting from the floor trailing up the 10ft ceiling are portraits upon portraits upon portraits. There are paintings, sketches, and drawings of famous actors, leaders, friends, family, and more. Not only do each portray a unique face, but each and every piece of artwork has a type of magical individualism: color, style, structure, and level are all different among the pieces. While staring in awe at the miniature art museum, or office, I got a brief, yet detailed description of the artist behind these masterpieces.


Like many of us can remember, going to a restaurant when you are a kid entails crayons for your kids menu, and maybe a compliment or two from your waiter about the dog or dinosaur you drew. However, the compliments Dr. Feinglass’ daughter got kept coming, and her work kept getting better. And now, many years later her work covers about every inch of wall space in the 10×12 office.

Dr. Feinglass’ office is memorable in that it shows his unconditional support and love for his family and his daughter’s artwork. However, the carefully categorized and organized artwork that lines his wall also strong fandom for family and his daughter’s art. But, perhaps it is a reminder of his intense eye for detail, (I will come to learn that he spends most of his days working with large datasets) and love for history, policy, advocacy, and creativity. To name a few, images of Meryl Streep, Bobby Kennedy, Lincoln, and Obama are all constant reminders of the unique life of Dr. Feinglass.


Before the interview, I had a vague idea of what his role was in in the healthcare field: he studied social epidemiology, social determinants of health, and was an advocate for health equity. But what exactly did that all mean? Well, I got a pretty good idea as he patiently showed me the data he was working with and explained that he would later send it to hospitals for improvement recommendations.

After the art tour and a couple side discourses we were ready to get on with the interview. Much of the interview would be spoiled if I told you more about Dr. Feinglass’ history, so here are a few keywords that might spark your interest: growing up during the Vietnam war, working in an assembly-line style factory, plus experiences and lessons learned working as a history teacher and as a health services researcher at Northwestern University. Have fun listening.

About Anika:


Anika Jagasia is a rising Senior at Latin School of Chicago. She worked in Dr. Melissa Simon’s Lab at Northwestern University – a lab focused on health inequities and social issues for under served, low-income individuals – in the Summer 2017. Anika plans to attend college in the Fall 2018, with an interest in the Sciences. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect the views of Latin School of Chicago or Northwestern University. Check out Anika’s Blog Post, What’s a Disparity? Equity? Incidence? A High Schooler’s Experience at a Health Internship, motivated by her summer work in Dr. Simon’s lab learning about health inequities.


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