Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Punwani wins prestigious Hamilton Project Innovation Prize

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin presents Nathan Punwani with the undergraduate award for the Hamilton Project Innovation Prize.

By late October, Nathan Punwani ’08 had only been in medical school a few months, but he was sure he had self-diagnosed cardiac arrhythmia.

One night while sitting at his computer he received an unexpected e-mail informing him that he had been selected by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution as the winner of the 2008 Hamilton Project Innovation Prize.

And you guessed it, his heart skipped a beat.

The Hamilton Project Policy Innovation Prize encourages the next generation of leaders to rigorously pursue innovative policy solutions to the pressing economic issues facing our nation.

Punwani’s winning proposal “Medicare & Medicaid Reform: Ensuring Long-Term Solvency” outlines a comprehensive policy regime to curtail excess growth in health care.

“This is an issue that has a lot of long-term implications that will affect my generation more than anything else,” said Punwani. “This is the biggest intergenerational challenge that this country will face in the next 20 to 40 years.”

The proposal won Punwani the undergraduate award and a prize of $7,500, which was presented to him by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin at a special event on December 5 in Washington, D.C.

Stephen Snyder, assistant professor of economics, says Punwani addressed the difficult subject of financing public health care in the United States and limiting expenditure in a way that balances fairness, innovation in new technology and fiscal sustainability.

“This is a subject that regularly defeats Nobel laureates,” says Snyder, who served as a resource for Punwani. “His proposals are a balancing act, entirely pleasing to no constituency, but a reasonable bargain for each. I only hope we get legislation as balanced as Nathan's proposal.”

As an undergraduate student, Punwani was enrolled in the combined-degree Baccalaureate/MD program with the Drexel University College of Medicine. He also majored in economics, and believed at some point his two fields of study would intersect.

After college, Punwani interned with U.S. Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, where he was able to gain a greater understanding of the state of health care in America today and the challenges it presents policy makers.

While doing some research on the Brookings Institution Web site, he stumbled upon the call for entries and decided to put together a proposal. The win came as quite a surprise.

Punwani’s winning proposal will go through a review by the Hamilton Project and will be published online as discussion papers in early 2009.

Now immersed in medical school, Punwani is already thinking of the opportunities that may lie ahead. He’s considering working in public health after graduation.

“I want to converge my interests in policy and health care,” said Punwani. “Winning this competition has made my opportunities more clear.”

--Tricia Long

Posted on Friday, January 30, 2009

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