Student Spotlight: Andrew Olenski, PhD Candidate in Economics

February 25, 2020
Andrew Olensk

Where did you grow up? 
Philadelphia, PA.

What drew you to your field? 
In 2013-2014, I had an undergraduate internship at the Council of Economic Advisers, and was assigned to work with the health economist monitoring the first year of the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges. After that, I knew I wanted to do a PhD in economics, and I've been working on health care ever since.

How would you explain your current research to someone outside of your field? 
I am interested in physician decision-making. It's easy to forget that medical doctors are also people, and that means they respond to incentives—just not always in the ways we think they will. My current research tries to highlight how physicians deviate in clinically meaningful ways from what we might expect, and asks what the consequences of those deviations are for patients.

Is there a common misconception about a topic in your field that you wish you could correct?
There are far too many in health economics, but a topical one that I hear frequently in political discussions about public health insurance expansions is that they pay for themselves. The argument goes that the cost-savings from reducing emergency care due to more preventive care offset the insurance costs. This is untrue; people who have insurance tend to seek more care, not less, so overall spending is likelier to rise—which is still a good thing for their health.

Who are your favorite writers?
This changes a lot over time, but in recent years, my favorite novelist has been Donna Tartt.

Who in your field do you consider to be a role model?
Jon Gruber (of MIT) is both a pioneer of academic health economics and an active participant in the policy world. I've always thought he struck a great balance between the two.

What music have you been listening to lately?
I've been listening to a lot of indie rock. Queen of Jeans (from Philly) are a recent favorite.

What is your favorite blog or website?
I spend a lot of time on Kaiser Health News. Stories of patient experiences are usually a great source of research ideas.

Where is your favorite place to eat on/around campus?
By far, Xi'an Famous Foods (at Broadway and 102nd Street). I love their noodle soups.