PKG Social Impact Internships: Mingying Yang (’22)
Path to Service
My name is Ming, and I am a junior in Chemical Engineering (Course 10). Because of the pandemic, I took classes remotely for the fall, and I couldn’t take any of the required Course 10 lab classes. To explore something new and fill out my pretty empty schedule, I decided to take several classes in the Economics Department. One of my favorite classes was 14.32, or Econometric, which sparked my interest in data science. I also realized that while I enjoy solving niche technical problems, I also want to work on problems on a wider scale. Due to the prevalence of racial discrimination in the United States, I became extremely interested in the Race, Equity, and Inclusion Analyst position at the Child, Youth and Families (CYF) Division of Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). The objective of the internship is to assess whether racial and ethnic disparities exist in the services that DMH provides to youth and families.
Promoting Equity in Our Communities
Racial discrimination can be defined as a differential treatment towards individuals of a given race. Research has shown that there exist inequities in mental health, education, incarceration, and more. This internship focuses on the aspect of access to mental health services. It has been shown that communities of color have worse access to and receive lower quality mental health services compared to whites. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) in its Unequal Treatment report defines a disparity as a difference in health care quality not due to differences in health care needs or preferences of the patient. As such, disparities can be rooted in inequalities in access to good providers, differences in insurance coverage, as well as stemming from discrimination by professionals in the clinical encounter
As a part of their strategic plan, DMH is moving toward becoming a more anti-racist agency. Specifically, the CYF Division is working on strengthening racial equity and eliminating disparities internally and externally. To do so, I am working on helping the agency compare the racial composition of youth served by DMH to the general population of youth in Massachusetts using the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) data. The ACS data provides the racial composition of youth for each zip code in the state, so we drill down to the specific DMH area and counties. I am in the process of assessing whether certain racial groups are over or underrepresented in our service population. If so, we want to determine the reasons for the disparities and different ways to address them. Additionally, I have been calculating the race-specific DMH CYF penetration rate, which is defined as the number of people DMH serves per 10,000 people in the general population for a specific racial group. This allows us to have a standard measure that accounts for the different population sizes and intra-racial disparities.
I found the work I have been doing to be very exciting and meaningful. I have greatly benefited from this internship in such a short period of time, and my programming and communication skills saw huge improvements. Through this internship, I not only understand more about the access to mental health services and the role of implicit biases, but I also have a clearer idea of what my career plan should look like. Lastly, I am very grateful for the experience and to the PKG center for allowing me to strengthen my technical skills while working on something impactful!
Want to learn more about the PKG Social Impact Internships Program? Visit our webpage to learn about ELO opportunities for Spring 2021, and stay tuned for information for summer 2021 postings!