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New Faculty Friday: Jamie Tam, tobacco use expert, modeling scientist, country western dancer

October 11, 2019
by Colin Poitras

The Yale School of Public Health proudly welcomes 13 new tenure track faculty this academic year. These individuals bring a broad range of research, scholarship, and teaching expertise to the school and will be instrumental in helping us address many of the public health challenges of the 21st century. 

Today we spotlight Jamie Tam, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Tam has a Ph.D. in health services organization and policy (2018) and an M.P.H. in health management and policy (2012) from the University of Michigan. She earned a B.S. with honors from Stanford University in 2010. Prior to coming to Yale, Tam served one year as a National Academy of Medicine Fellow at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Q: Describe your primary academic focus or research specialty? 

JT: My research looks at tobacco-related health disparities and uses simulation modeling to evaluate the potential effects of tobacco control policies or interventions. I lead studies that focus on people with comorbid mental health conditions because this population has much higher smoking rates compared to the general population and is often left out of coordinated public health efforts. I am also interested in understanding how e-cigarettes or other novel nicotine products could change smoking behaviors. Nicotine addiction and how it could impact vulnerable populations, including those with behavioral health conditions, is something I’m also exploring in my modeling work.

Q: What are your long-term goals in public health? 

JT: My long-term goal is to advance bold public health policies with science that is responsive to the needs of decision-makers. As a field, I feel we have a responsibility to make sure that science is properly translated for policymakers and non-technical audiences. Research is often not accessible for the general public, so it can get misinterpreted by advocacy groups or misused by the tobacco industry to lobby against sound public health policies. Simulation modeling in particular is an area where poor translation limits its potential to inform policy-making, so I want to work towards closing that gap.

Before coming to YSPH, I was a Tobacco Regulatory Science Fellow at the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, where the agency deals with complex problems and has to consider many factors and viewpoints before moving forward with a decision. Science on its own is often not enough to advance health regulations because all the political and bureaucratic conditions have to be right at that moment in time. I want to make sure that science is ‘policy-ready’ once that window opens, so that those decisions are evidence-driven. 

Q: How will the resources available at the Yale School of Public Health help you achieve your goals?

JT: I do my best work when I am part of a culture that values collaboration, inclusion, and progressive ideas – so I view the YSPH community as the most important resource available to me. I thrive when I’m working with people from different disciplines, who have skills in areas where I don’t, and where every person on the team is valued regardless of their background. In my experience, I’ve found that some of the most innovative projects come to life when diversity is viewed as a strength and new proposals are given real consideration. I’m eager to be part of the YSPH ecosystem and build a research program that reflects true public health values. 

Q: Tell us something about yourself away from public health (E.g., hobbies, interests, pursuits, etc.).

JT: I have two language passions: Cantonese and American Sign Language. And I’m always looking for language buddies! While I was born and raised in California, my family is from Hong Kong, so I am actively working to improve my Cantonese and reconnect with my heritage. I’m actually more fluent in ASL than Cantonese, thanks to a stellar ASL program in my hometown. Beyond languages, I’m also a huge fan of country western dancing. I spent the last year learning a lot of different line dances and I have a personal goal to learn to lead two-step by next summer.

Submitted by Sayuri Gavaskar on October 11, 2019