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Q&A with Fernanda Alonso–Our New Director of Research

"At the end of the day, I like information. I like finding knowledge."

It’s a new year, and with it Bellweather welcomes our new Director of Research, Fernanda Alonso, who will be overseeing our research and strategy team. Fernanda is originally from Mexico City but is now based out of her home in Brooklyn, New York. Fernanda is a lawyer and has her PhD in public health from Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches a class on Public Health Perspectives and U.S. Drug Policy. Let’s get into it!

On being a pathmaker in the field of law:

I’d love to hear a little more about your background in law and public health. How did you come to combine those fields?

I’ve always existed outside the mold of what was happening. I was studying law when a professor put me in touch with my first boss who was starting the Right to Health Program, a public health and law research  program in Mexico. We were doing a lot of work around topics like tobacco control, abortion, and same sex marriage. We were taking cases to the Supreme Court in Mexico. I decided to move to the U.S. to do a masters in Global Health Law, so that helped to bring me more formally into public health, but still with that legal element. I decided that I wanted to go further into the public health space, and that’s when I started my PhD at Johns Hopkins.

On research:

What surprises you?

I have so much unconscious bias! I come into every situation with a lot of baggage, with a lot of previous thoughts, and with a lot of stereotypes. It’s important to be really aware of that subjective element that I’m bringing to the table, and ask myself: why do I already come into a project with certain assumptions?

Favorite part?

I really enjoy doing focus groups with people that you might not generally listen to in other spaces.

At the end of the day, I like information. I like finding knowledge. Whether I’m working as a lawyer on health policies, or researching with a team, I’m doing essentially the same thing in all of these spaces, which is collecting data, looking for and finding information.

What’s the future of research?

For the clients that Bellweather has, if the campaign doesn’t resonate–and this may sound very dramatic–but it can be a life or death situation. For example, health insurance isn’t going to be the same for a twenty-something-year-old college student at NYU as it is for an immigrant who doesn’t speak English well. This is where research really becomes an essential part of the development process. The better we understand the shared needs of a complex consumer base, the more likely it is we’ll be able to strategize for an effective campaign message.

Client wish list?

I really loved working with Be Smart and MetroPlusHealth. I would love to work with any health department – city or state.

On her role at Bellweather Agency:

Can you tell me a little bit more about what you do for Bellweather?

I lead our growing team of researchers, overseeing the qualitative and quantitative research that we do for different clients. That includes anything from doing focus groups, one-on-one interviews, literature reviews, competitor analysis, to analyzing all that data through qualitative software, and getting a report out for the clients.

The Lightning Round . . . .

Books on your nightstand/or last book you read?

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

What’s the last song you listened to?

The most recent Florence and the Machine album, Dance Fever. Once I get into something, I can listen to it over and over for months.

Favorite show to binge watch?

Just finished White Lotus. Loved it.

Recommendations of good places to eat in your neck of the woods?

I am very picky about my Mexican food, but For All Things Good is a good Mexican food restaurant that I enjoy going to in my neighborhood.

Fantasy vacation?

I want to go to the salt flats in Bolivia!