Isabella Turilli wears a blue jacket and pants while sitting on an ambulance in front of leavings changing from green to yellow
Category: Student Experience

Title: Georgetown Alumna and Pandemic Policy Researcher Wins 2023 Rhodes Scholarship

Isabella Turilli has shoulder-length blonde hair and wears red lipstick and a blue jacket
Isabella Turilli (SFS’22) will study public policy at the University of Oxford as a 2022 Rhodes Scholar.

Research on Campus

On the Hilltop, Turilli studied science, technology, and international affairs with a concentration in biotechnology and global health. Eager to explore outside the classroom, Turilli took on several research positions to immerse herself in health sciences. She discovered its critical intersection with policy along the way.

In 2020, Turilli started working at the Bansal Lab — led by Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Shweta Bansal — where she investigated and co-authored a report on the relationships between climate change, natural disasters and wildlife disease.

“Isabella is a gifted student whose ambition and passion demonstrate her potential as a leader of tomorrow,” says Bansal.

At Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, Turilli spent a year working with center director Rebecca Katz coding pandemic preparedness documents for the Health Security Net.

“She excelled and became a very welcome member of the team,” says Katz. “I have no doubt she will contribute greatly to the field over the course of her career.”

On the Frontlines

Turelli’s interest in health also led her to Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS), a student-run medical emergency service. Here, she helped over 200 patients and volunteered over 1,200 hours, serving as both crew chief and quality assurance officer.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Turilli took on work at the frontline.

“During the pandemic, she was one of the only crew chiefs on [the GERMS] roster,” says Lauren Tuckley, director of the Center for Research and Fellowships. “This means that Isabella, while supporting a full class load, and working part-time, shouldered the responsibility for making sure that Georgetown students and Georgetown community members had access to the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in emergency situations.”

“COVID-19 was able to fundamentally reorient my path — a year of struggle, service and much suffering has pushed me towards a career in global health policymaking. I see the Rhodes Scholarship as the vehicle through which I can work towards state cooperation in global health governance.”

— Isabella Turilli (SFS’22)

A Vision for Global Health

COVID-19 and Turilli’s work as an EMT fundamentally reoriented her path. As she worked on the frontlines and studied in the classroom, Turilli became troubled by the international response to the pandemic.

“As an EMT, I was well-acquainted with how dire the situation had become. As a global health student, I knew that the International Health Regulations had been made to handle exactly this type of crisis,” says Turilli. “I was perplexed at the world’s knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic. If the world had written itself a pandemic protocol, why was it not being followed?”

Turilli channeled this question and her emergency medical experience into her thesis, seeking answers from experts in global health and policy.

“She interviewed experts, including academics, programmatic leaders, and policymakers in global health to understand the complexity of where money comes from, who makes decisions, and whose voices matter in the field of global health,” says Professor Emily Mendenhall, TurIlli’s thesis advisor. “As her mentor, I observed her diligence, poise, professionalism and drive.”

Turilli’s thesis has been submitted for publication in an academic journal, and she continues her studies in global health as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. At Oxford, Turilli will pursue a master’s in public policy and in public policy research to continue building her knowledge of policy-oriented theory and action.

“I am committed to working towards the vision of global health as imagined by the study I dedicate myself to and the communities I’ve learned from,” says Turilli. “Someday, I will ask those same experts about global health governance again. My greatest hope is that their answers will be positive, and that I will have contributed to that improvement.”