Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
START Center



This September, two research assistants graduated from the Strategic Analysis, Research & Training (START) Center’s training program. Simi Grewal, Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research & Policy PhD candidate, and Deanna Tollefson, Implementation Science PhD candidate, both completed their research assistantships and are now working on completing their dissertations.

Below, learn more about our impressive graduates and the work they completed while engaged with START.



Prior to joining the University of Washington, Simi received her Master of Health Science in Health Economics (’13) from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (JHSPH) where she also worked as a Research Associate in the school’s Department of International Health. Simi’s experience includes decision analytic modeling in both the private biotechnology industry and public health settings. Her current research interests focus on the use of economic evaluation to inform policies related to the approval, coverage, and uptake of essential medicines.

Simi worked on four projects during her two-and-a-half-year research assistantship with the START Center, serving as project manager for each of the projects. Learn more about three of these projects below:

  • Integrated Portfolio Management (IPM) Cost of Illness (COI):The IPM COI work encompassed an initial internal Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) survey on data needs around costs of treating illness for diseases addressed in the BMGF Research & Development portfolio, followed by a full data collection process for COI input data and synthesis into data input sheets used in IPM analyses.
  • Health Birth, Growth and Development knowledge integration (HBGDki): The START team worked with BMGF’s Healthy Birth, Growth, and Development knowledge integration (HBGDki) team to develop a timeline mapping seminal events in growth and development from conception through adolescence. In the most recent phase of the project, the team worked to digitize the timeline as an interactive map online.
  • Country Immunizations Activity Summary, Phase 3: For this two-part project, the START team updated the Country Immunizations code book created during a previous START project to include Expanded Program on Immunization(EPI) documents that the BMGF Vaccine Delivery obtained from country ministries of health. In the second part of the project, the team aimed to provide insight on a series of hypotheses from BMGF on why certain countries experienced better or worse vaccine coverage, using data from the code book.

Simi finished her research assistantship with START in September 2019. She is finishing her dissertation as a Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research & Policy PhD candidate and has begun working as a Global Value, Access, and Pricing Manager at Seattle Genetics, where she focuses on economics in Oncology and assigning value to certain medicines.



After receiving her MPH from Emory University, Deanna worked as an epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to strengthen tuberculosis (TB) surveillance across Africa and Asia and encourage national TB programs to use data for decision-making. In this position, Deanna also served as lead coordinator for CDC’s TB prevention and control projects in China. Deanna is interested in working with global health implementers to design, evaluate, and scale-up evidence-based interventions to improve livelihoods in resource-limited settings.

Deanna worked on six projects during her two-year research assistantship with the START Center and served as the project manager for one of these projects. The highlights of three of these projects are listed below:

  • Behavior Change Analysis: The team conducted an analysis of the Fogg Behavior Model in the context of a condom advertisement campaign in Pakistan. The purpose of this analysis was to use data from the condom campaign to determine if the Fogg Behavior Model could be a valid tool to determine behavior change. Specifically, the team looked at how motivation and ability is associated with condom use among married men in urban Pakistan. START research assistant Shadae Paul presented the project findings at the American Public Health Association conference in San Diego, California.
  • Validating the Fogg Behavior Model in Nigeria: Using the Fogg Behavior Model framework, the team conducted an analysis of baseline survey data from a television and radio drama series that promoted contraceptive use among adolescents in Nigeria.
  • Family Planning Training in Crisis Settings: The team reviewed published and grey literature, and consulted field experts in family planning, emergency response, and mobile health to evaluate the current landscape of training for family planning in crisis settings, and to identify opportunities for growth and improvement.

Deanna finished her research assistantship with START in September 2019. She is working on her dissertation as an Implementation Science PhD candidate in Global Health, as well as gaining experience in teaching as a teaching assistant.

Simi and Deanna will continue to engage with START’s extensive alumni network, established in 2011. START often invites alumni to share about their experiences after graduating from the training program at all-team meetings and, additionally, taps into the alumni network for content expertise on projects. The alumni network is comprised of highly skilled START graduate professionals employed in global health, business, and consulting across disciplines.