Year of Graduation: 1999
Current Job: Public Health and International Development Specialist for Deloitte Consulting
This a management consulting firm with offices globally.
Please give a brief description of your current position.
Generally speaking, I help developing countries improve access to health services and health status of their population. More specifically, I work with countries to strengthen their health systems to improve access (financial and geographic) to quality healthcare services. Health system weaknesses are among the most important factors contributing to the suboptimal use of priority health services, such as skilled attendance at birth, childhood vaccinations, treatment for TB, malaria, and diarrheal disease, access to anti-retroviral drugs, etc.
So we work in countries at various levels of the system (such as the central/district government, community organizations, the private sector [NGOs, CBOs, corporations, etc.] to address issues such as financial management (to ensure resources are accounted for, resources are disbursed, etc.), health planning/programming (working with them to use data for decision-making, forecasting disease burdens based on programming efforts, planning human resource needs to ensure clinics and hospitals are adequately staffed, planning procurement needs to ensure that drugs and supplies are available in the health facilities, etc.), health governance (to ensure that accountability measures are in place and to help mobilize civil society to ensure that the government responds to people's needs), etc.
On a day-to-day basis, I am working with countries to address some of their key priority issues, whether it is using data for decision making (Yemen), helping them to design and implement financial risk-pooling mechanisms to reduce the financial burden on households to receive health care (India), or helping countries allocate health resources based on priority health needs for the country (global).
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
My first exposure to the impact of US policy on international development and the impact of inequities on health and quality of living was when I was a sophomore at CSB/SJU. I attended the Ojos Abiertos J-term course, which was based in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The course objective was to study indigenous populations that were affected by Mexico and US policy decisions. It opened my eyes to the inequities and disparities that were in essence caused by poorly planned policy decisions.
Upon graduation, I took a year and volunteered in the West Bank working in a hospital. The hospital, which was on the border of East and West Jerusalem (and the border of Israel and the West Bank) was staffed by and provided healthcare to both Palestinians and Israelis. I realized the impact that policy and culture had on overall wellbeing and health outcomes, and became immediately turned on to health on a community and policy level, rather than a medicinal, individual level.
I returned to Minneapolis/St. Paul to practice what I had spent thousands of dollars to study (chemistry!), working in the research and development lab for AVEDA. My experiences in both the West Bank and Cuernavaca were continually pulling at me internally, eventually leading me to pursue a graduate degree in public health and international policy. I have since been working in International Development and Public Health for 6 years and have worked in India, Bangladesh, Zambia, Ethiopia, Senegal and Malawi on issues ranging from adolescent reproductive health to health insurance to gender.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Be flexible, be curious and be open to try new things (even if you don't know exactly what you're doing). In my field specifically, it's crucial to get international experience in low income countries. The realities on the ground considerably affect what you can do (and how fast you can do it!) and having an intimate awareness of the knowledge, attitudes, practices and infrastructure allow you to design programs that are culturally sensitive and feasible.
What skills/characteristics are important in your field?
Some kind of health, social protection, economics, development, etc. knowledge/experience is important; Analytical skills - both quantitative and qualitative analysis; Ability to work on little sleep (due to jet lag!); Program management skills; Communication skills; Cultural sensitivity; Openness and non-judgmental.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
J-term (Cuernavaca Mexico); Study abroad; having international friends.