Sam Powers, Class of 2016
Sam graduated from the University of Virginia in three years and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research on innovative ways to deliver quality health care to the populations of Rwanda who are most at risk. Inspired by Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez’s discussion of the necessary link between Christian life and the desire to stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized, Sam says, “I try to ask myself, ‘How can I use the gifts I have been given to shine a spotlight on places where the marginalized have been overlooked, contributing to a system that places the poor at its center going forward?’”
I try to ask myself, ‘How can I use the gifts I have been given to shine a spotlight on places where the marginalized have been overlooked, contributing to a system that places the poor at its center going forward?
Sam, who earned a degree in statistics and religious studies, explains that he is using data and quantitative analysis to carefully review assumptions and biases built into social systems. “I focus on data investigation, visualization, and story-telling techniques to create frameworks to regularly assess equity in healthcare delivery.” He is currently working, in association with the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda, on creating visual frameworks to monitor progress toward Rwanda’s Sustainable Development Goals. “Dr. Agnes Binagwaho is an inspirational figure whose time as Minister of Health of Rwanda was integral to strengthening the country’s health system and driving Rwanda’s radical improvements in health metrics since the genocide in 1994. Being able to conduct research under her mentorship and alongside those at UGHE will be an unparalleled formative experience both for my skills as a researcher and my perspectives on health care equity and delivery.”
Sam plans to pursue a career in public health, specifically seeking ways to improve access to health care and proper nutrition for the poor and marginalized. “My goal has always been to work in the public health field, but I view health as a multi-dimensional construct – it’s at an intersection of the biological, the social and the spiritual.”
Sam says he lives out his faith day-to-day by taking every opportunity to teach. “Whenever I chat with someone new about my work, I try to be respectful of [his or her] dignity and intelligence, explaining the mechanisms and assumptions behind what I do…It is a small, but powerful way to help people have a greater say in what external organizations do in their community.”
He credits his years at Trinity with teaching him how to think, to write, and to argue, and with giving him the confidence to ask questions of college professors. “Trinity prepared me well with the logical structures to define myself as my own person within the secular environment at UVA. I am also thankful for the character my time at Trinity helped me develop. Trinity left me with a deep and abiding love for God that, even if I felt I still had new perspectives to contend with, was very real and very lasting.” Outside of his coursework at Trinity and during college, Sam has sought to wrestle with diverse Christian perspectives through writers like Julian of Norwich, Augustine, Karl Barth, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
Sam was a Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar at UVA and was a Lawn resident for his final undergraduate year. He was also a member of the Raven Society, chair of the First Year Judiciary Committee and vice chair for first years on the University Judiciary Committee, a member of the Reformed University Fellowship at UVA, and a fellow in the Pay for Success Laboratory. He conducted volunteer research on affordable housing in Charlottesville for the Legal Aid Justice Center, worked for Outcomes Research Team at INOVA Fairfax Hospital Beatty Center, and was a volunteer data scientist with Data4Democracy Incarceration Reform project. He is a recipient of the 2018 Student Award for Excellence in Public Health Research for his research analysis of trends in malnutrition, presented at public health research symposium, and was awarded a Sister Bridget Haase Center for Global Health Scholarship.