Ah, it feels like just yesterday. My second grade teacher (Ms. Higgins) tasked us with presenting a response to the classic: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” prompt. With an ever-uncrushable confidence, I proudly walked up to the front of the classroom, took a deep breath and proclaimed, “when I grow up I want to be a doctor, a bus driver, or a researcher evaluating effective health financing models for overall health system strengthening!”. Okay… maybe I am not recalling the details exactly as they happened – my dad does often likes to remind me of my sanguine personality type when I struggle to recall everything.
So, if not birthed with a natural desire to pursue Global Health Policy and Management, how does one stumble upon this career path?
Here is my personal segue in: As a native born Canadian and naturalized United States citizen, I have been engaging in health financing discussions since before I knew what health financing was. It seemed a natural conversational cadence to A. find out I am Canadian (through my accent – now largely hidden, or because of my English pronunciation of ‘zed’ as opposed to ‘zee’). B. ask about the various nuances of Canadian life (did you live in an igloo? Are there penguins on the street? Have you met Justin Bieber?) C. inevitably bring up Universal Health Coverage D. give me a very loose allegory about a friend of a friend who had a bad experience with Canadian health coverage. Challenged by not having an eloquent and factually verified rebuttal, I began researching health financing in Canada vs. the US in middle school.
Fast forward many years and I found myself – thanks to nepotism and the need for financial stability – working within a rural Pennsylvanian 32 bed Emergency Department (ED). As a registrar, I began to see first-hand the complexities of health insurance and the amazing way in which a patient could go into financial ruin after a 3 hour stay in our ED without insurance. Who was at fault? Should they have invested in insurance or planned ahead? Is it okay for our system to charge thousands for a simple fracture and X-ray? I then began assisting with utilization in the coordination of direct admissions and transfers of patients and again was struck with the immense complexities embedded in our system. Additionally, I was inputting the ED Doctor’s charges and saw exactly how much they charged first hand.
Those were two of the more formative experiences that pushed me into health policy. I thoroughly enjoy hearing unique ‘origin’ stories from each individual within the Global Health Policy and Management Masters program. One thing is certain, folks do not often stumble into health policy but are typically driven into this realm out of an abundance of frustrating encounters with the health system(s) at large. So, if you ever wondered why someone would study health policy, or you are interested in studying health policy yourself, please reach out to me anytime! It is a wonderful, scary place full of folks like me who lean on hope, optimism and knowledge to not lose heart. Second grade Hannah would be so proud to see where she has ended up today!