Health Services Research Doctoral Student Awarded Prestigious Soros Fellowship for New Americans

Geronimo Bejarano, originally from Colombia, stood out in a field of 2,323 graduate applicants to win merit-based fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants

In an inspiring tale of perseverance and academic excellence, Geronimo Bejarano, a doctoral student at Brown’s School of Public Health, has been honored with the 2024 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Geronimo, whose research focuses on the U.S. health care system, stood out among 2,323 applicants to win this merit-based award, which supports immigrants and children of immigrants in their graduate studies.

David Meyers, Geronimo’s academic advisor and assistant professor of health services, policy and practice at Brown, praised the achievement, stating, “I can't think of a better recipient for this award. Geronimo is fiercely committed to improving our health care system for our most vulnerable patients through his research. His research drive and accomplishments so far have been striking and his contributions are already making an impact.”

Geronimo began his Ph.D. in health services research at Brown University in 2023, collaborating closely with Meyers and Andrew Ryan, director of the Center for Advancing Health Policy Through Research and professor of health services, policy and practice at Brown. His work investigates the implications of privatized Medicare, or Medicare Advantage, on the elderly population.

The significance of the Soros Fellowship represents both financial support for Geronimo and an affirmation of his lifelong commitment to academic achievement. Born in Cali, the most populous city in southwest Colombia, he moved to Florida with his family at the age of four. Amid the struggles associated with the persistent threat of deportation and his parents’ undocumented employment, Geronimo persevered, becoming the first in his family to complete high school, swiftly advancing through higher education milestones.

Reflecting on the impact of the fellowship, Geronimo said, “This fellowship is much more than financial assistance for my education; it’s a recognition of the struggles and sacrifices my family and I have faced. I am honored and thankful they prioritize supporting individuals from disadvantaged communities.”

After obtaining his green card post-high school, Geronimo pursued a B.S. in Exercise Science at the University of Central Florida, followed by several years as an aid in musculoskeletal pain care. His growing interest in research and commitment to addressing health inequities led him to complete his MPH at the University of Texas, focusing on the effects of the U.S. health care system’s privatization of care delivery and inequities among older adults. 

Geronimo’s passage from a young immigrant with uncertain prospects to a doctoral student at one of the nation’s leading schools of public health exemplifies his scholarly commitment. He plans to use the Soros Fellowship to support his goal of producing research that improves the lives of minoritized communities.