University High School graduate leads UC Davis Health study

Amanda Aguilar Image
Thursday, August 4, 2022
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A local high school graduate was the lead investigator in a recent UC Davis Health study, which is now published in a medical journal.

A local high school graduate was the lead investigator in a recent UC Davis Health study, which is now published in a medical journal.

Last January, as a senior at University High School in Fresno, Juliet Fang saw a report showing how the Central Valley was struggling with congenital syphilis.

"Central Valley isn't known for too many things," she said. "So when I saw it making those kinds of headlines, it really piqued my interest."

Congenital syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth.

"The main cause of congenital syphilis is pregnant women not seeking proper prenatal treatment," explained Fang.

She was interested in finding out if socioeconomic factors played a role. Fang reached out to UC Davis Health and pitched her idea.

"I was a high school student. Here's a bunch of PhDs that are really busy," recalled Fang. "They're like, 'Okay, you have this idea. I need you to do it, for the most part, and then we'll look at it and guide you but we can't hold your hand.'"

While juggling senior year and college applications, Fang spent a year researching data on everything from California poverty rates, to health care access and more.

Fang's study ended up showing that congenital syphilis was prevalent in areas where a high number of women were living in poverty and a low number of women were graduating from high school.

"Our main conclusion was that rural counties in California are in need of prenatal health services and better access to them, and hospitals in those areas need to better follow congenital syphilis treatment protocol," said Fang.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Perinatology.

"I've been working to try to connect with the Fresno Department of Public Health to work with local hospitals to make this study applied to the real world," Fang said.

The recent high school grad is also getting ready for her first year at Brown University in Rhode Island to study public health.

Fang hopes to continue working with UC Davis researchers, and continue raising awareness to better the Valley's access to healthcare.