Intern Spotlight: Sona Fokum and Weston Lowry


August 12, 2021

This summer, Sona Fokum and Weston Lowry are interning at the Center for Health Economics of Treatment Interventions for Substance Use Disorder, HCV, and HIV (CHERISH) and expanding their research experience by working alongside CHERISH investigators and colleagues. Both Fokum and Lowry are pursuing careers in healthcare and recognize that this experience will provide foundational insights about health economics and policies related to caring for vulnerable communities, addressing health inequities, and combatting the opioid crisis. CHERISH is committed to engaging diverse students and trainees at all levels in health economics and substance use research, and we are delighted to have Fokum and Lowry on board.

portrait photo of sona fokum

Based in Chicago, Illinois, Sona Fokum enjoys the vibrant range of activities offered by the city including scenic walks by Promontory Point.

Sona Fokum

Sona Fokum is a rising senior from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Complementing her public health studies with a double minor in biological sciences and chemistry, she seeks to ground her understanding of the political and environmental conditions that impact how healthcare is delivered and accessed. She plans to obtain a dual MD/MPH degree in the future.

Through the Summer Undergraduates Minority Research Program at the University of Pennsylvania, she is working with CHERISH investigator Jake Morgan and CHERISH Dissemination & Policy Core Director Zachary Meisel on identifying best practices to create linked-records public health databases that will inform policies and interventions to address the opioid epidemic. She will be conducting literature reviews and coordinating qualitative efforts with stakeholders across 10 states to understand the processes behind combining linked-records databases.

portrait photo of weston lowry

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Weston Lowry praises his hometown for the diverse food scene and the eclectic Minnesota State Fair.

Weston Lowry

Weston Lowry was a pre-med student who recently graduated from Yale University. Throughout his academic studies, Lowry progressively enriched his understanding of substance use in the United States. From interning at the Centers for Disease Control, and Prevention, to completing his senior thesis on the origins of syringe service programs, he is eager to contribute to the public health response to substance use and learn more about the substance use research community.   

Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Summer Research Internship Program, Lowry will take part in data collection, manuscript preparation, and presentation of research findings under the guidance of CHERISH Director Bruce Schackman, CHERISH Research Affiliate Czarina Behrends, and Cristina Chin, research manager in the Division of Comparative Effectiveness and Outcomes Research at Weill Cornell Medicine. The study, “Feasibility and Acceptability of HIV, HCV, and Opioid Use Disorder Services in Syringe Service Programs,” aims to describe the healthcare delivery models of syringe service programs that provide medications and services for people with HIV, hepatitis C, and opioid use disorder.