Fellows Comments

2001-2002

Executive Director, Hogg Foundation For Mental Health; Associate Vice President, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement; Clinical Professor of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

The Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy is truly a unique experience. It embodies the true meaning of fellowship, not only from an academic perspective, but even more so from a humanistic perspective. You are among a company of equals and are provided with the skills and tools to rise above the din and take your "seat at the table." The academic program is invigorating and challenging. The exposure to public, private, and government leaders at the national, state, and community level is outstanding. A lifetime of networking is consolidated into twelve months. This in and of itself makes the Fellowship priceless. The interdisciplinary approach taken by the Fellowship is a valuable model well suited to address the challenging public health issues facing minorities, disadvantaged populations, and all communities in general. This approach is especially pertinent to the unique mental health issues facing our communities. This model nicely complements the biopsychosocial model learned by mental health professionals during their formal training. Both models promote a comprehensive understanding of relevant problems. Together, these two models provide a strong foundation from which a mental health professional can build a career dedicated to improving mental health policy. The Fellowship encourages and challenges one to absorb, integrate, and formulate solutions to major issues. These issues are formidable, but the Fellowship teaches one that they are not insurmountable.

The knowledge acquired, the skills learned, and the confidence instilled has provided me with exciting opportunities to give back to the community and enhance my career. In the first twelve months since I completed the Fellowship, I have had the privilege of serving on several grant review committees for the NIH, conduct peer reviews for academic journals, participate in strategic planning to improve the mental health clinic of a local federally funded community health center, establish an alliance with a regional public mental health foundation, enhance the health disparities curriculum for the medical school of which I am a faculty member, and have been asked to join hospital policy committees usually reserved for more senior staff.

I feel these opportunities came to fruition because of the knowledge, skills, and confidence imparted by my education and fellowship experience. Therefore, I encourage all mental health professionals, who want to make a contribution to humanity, who want to further enlighten their fellow man, and who want to experience personal growth, to apply to the Fellowship. It can be the beginning of a wondrous journey.

The combination of the Fellowship and the Health Policy and Management Department of the Harvard School of Public Health showed me the value of and gave me the tools to pursue a future molding America's health policy. They exposed me to the importance of networking with and learning from experts already established in high places. They made me understand what leadership entails and that there is a leader in me. This experience will remain invaluable throughout my life.

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough: we must do." (Quote from Goethe printed in the 2002 Institute of Medicine's report Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare.)

2000-2001

Chief Medical Officer, San Francisco Health Network; Professor of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

The Health Policy Management track exposed me to important subject areas that complimented and enhanced my prior experiences in community health, economics, finance, managed care policy, public opinion and the role of politics in the health care system. Because its requirements closely match that of the fellowship, I had maximum flexibility in choosing courses to meet my specific needs.

1999-2000

Senior Medical Advisor for Federal Policy, US. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, New York, NY

The combination of the Fellowship and the Health Policy and Management Department of the Harvard School of Public Health showed me the value of and gave me the tools to pursue a future molding America's health policy. They exposed me to the importance of networking with and learning from experts already established in high places. They made me understand what leadership entails and that there is a leader in me. This experience will remain invaluable throughout my life.

Senior Policy Advisor, Government Strategies, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, D.C.

….Joan’s involvement with my career did not end when I completed the fellowship, though. She strongly encouraged all of us to explore nontraditional career paths, and provided the necessary guidance and support for us to do so. When I finished residency, I had planned on pursuing an academic medical career as a clinician-researcher. However, after the fellowship, I joined the Commonwealth Fund, and worked on quality of care issues for underserved populations for over 2 years. I then came to the U.S. Senate and served as deputy director for health for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and now as health and education policy advisor for Senator Barack Obama. Three years later, I continue to depend heavily on the academic training, the leadership and networking that I acquired through the Commonwealth program, and personal guidance and advice from Joan. I am always impressed by the caliber and diversity of the career paths of my co-alumni fellows. Our health care system here in the U.S. is broken, and there are no easy solutions to the twin crises of health care access and health care quality. The breadth and the magnitude of these crises underscore the importance of the Commonwealth fellowship and its strong leadership. I give my congratulations and gratitude to Joan Reede, and look forward to the next 10 years of partnership!

Assistant Director, Division of Public Health Practice ; Assistant Professor Pediatrics, Graduate Studies and Research, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN

I had the opportunity to speak at a statewide meeting recently on the subject of infant mortality. This is an area of interest that I have always had, but did not have the tools as a primary care provider to make a difference. Talking to patients one-on-one was not moving the numbers. When I did the fellowship, so many light bulbs brightened. I learned the skills needed to play the public health chess game, and play it well. The leadership training has enabled me to take a step forward and align myself as the infant mortality “State” expert. With the presentation skills, and media training we did as fellows, I have made a name for myself. The connections to high level people in the CDC and Federal Government have provided me with information and insight that continues to be beneficial to me on a daily basis. Although I haven’t successfully eliminated perinatal health disparities yet, I have been able to put enough pieces of the disparities puzzle together to start the process. None of this would have been possible without the lessons learned as a fellow.

1998-1999

Managing Director, Cancer Control Interventions, Prevention and Early Detection Department, American Cancer Society Office of Cancer Control, Atlanta, GA

The opportunity to hold in-depth, candid conversations with high-level policymakers is a unique and valuable aspect of the fellowship. In addition, the rapidly growing network of former fellows, many of whom have moved into important roles in the pubic and private sectors, has already proven to be a tremendous resource.

Captain, Commissioned Corps, U.S. Public Health Service; Senior Clinical Advisor, Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Rockville, MD

The CFHUF provided me with not only academic public health/health policy training but with resources for living everyday life. It introduced me to fellowship alumni and an administrator who cared enough to leave their families early one June morning to pack the truck that would carry me to new adventures away from Boston. It led me to my first health policy job because a senior governmental official believed in the CFHUF and the fellows it trained. It provided me with personal medical consultants when I needed to advocate for my own health care needs during a life threatening situation or when I questioned the potential of future medical sequlae afterwards. It has provided me with life-long friends and mentors who continually remind me to “always be looking for a new job,” “pray about it and follow your heart,” never be too busy to “talk story,” and never forget the community of “people we serve”—it is for them that we seek to bring about “a revolution” in health care. My unending thanks to Joan, Karen Davis and Karen Scott Collins, and the many, many others who are now a permanent part of my life resources.

1997-1998

Associate Professor of Health Science, University of Hawaii – West Oahu, Kapolei, HI; Pediatrician and Kulia Project Coordinator, Kalihi-Palama Health Center, Honolulu, HI
 

The Fellowship taught me that leadership, integrity and personal values are intertwined. In accepting uncertainty and taking risks we open ourselves up to a who new world of opportunity.

1996-1997

President of Moncrease & Associates, LLC; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSUSOM), Detroit, MI, and former Medical Director, Adolescent Health, Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion.


 

The experience I found most rewarding while doing the fellowship was the networking opportunity. To be able to sit and talk with national experts in the field of minority health on a one-on-one setting was wonderful.

Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership; Clinical Professor, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Spokane, WA

The Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy was a life-changing experience for me. The fellowship provided the opportunity to gain training in both public health and minority health policy in a supportive and encouraging environment. Prior to the fellowship, I was aware that I wanted to do more to improve the quality of healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives but I was unsure of the most effective way to accomplish this in my career. I worked as a clinician and medical director in the Indian Health Service, but I felt that the problems facing this population and its healthcare were much greater than what I was seeing on a day to day basis in the clinic.

My experiences caring for Indian patients revealed the persistent health disparities in this population and the impact of the significant underfunding and understaffing of the system, but I could not understand how these problems could be addressed in a more effective manner. During the fellowship, I learned about the various approaches to public health issues that worked in other communities, and the various resources available to meet these healthcare needs. I also was able to understand some of the reasons for the state of the Indian health system as I learned about national healthcare issues and challenges and similar problems in other underserved settings. The fellowship provided me with a framework from the policy perspective that helped me understand the various ways that the problems in Indian health could be addressed. I learned about the important role of data and research in helping inform policy decisions, and realized that one of the problems in Indian health is a lack of data and information on the causes of the health disparities and on potentially effective solutions. The fellowship was instrumental in helping me transition my career to an academic setting where I now work on research to measure the quality of healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives with diabetes, and I am involved in both policy and programmatic efforts to develop programs and educational efforts to help improve diabetes care and reduce health disparities in this population. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow during the fellowship year and attribute my current and future successes to the support and encouragement I continue to receive in the growing network of past and present fellows. The fellowship has certainly enriched my life and my career, and it serves as a source of strength and encouragement for my current and future efforts to help improve healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives.