Applying global health lessons to U.S. health care

Suzanne Brundage, SM '14

May 17, 2013 — The conversation around health care policy in the United States, mired as it is in partisan bickering, has gone off course from what should be its larger goal — building the foundation of a secure and prosperous society, according to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) student Suzanne Brundage, SM ’14. Having recently left a position as assistant director of the Global Health Policy Center, part of Washington, D.C. think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Brundage hopes to bring the lessons she’s learned from her global health work — such as building coalitions and connecting the dots for policy makers between health and economic prosperity and security — to bear on domestic health challenges.

Joining CSIS soon after graduating from Bennington College, Brundage quickly moved into high-level policy work, including briefing members of Congress on global health issues and leading a commission whose work was cited in a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a convincing argument for U.S. engagement in the world.

Although she loved her job, Brundage began to feel pulled toward helping the U.S. health care system become the best it could be. “The global health community has so much energy and creativity behind it,” said Brundage, who is earning her degree in health policy and management. “Seeing how diverse groups were coming together to reduce health disparities globally always made me think about what could be done domestically in places like the Mississippi Delta, parts of Appalachia, or in inner-city low income neighborhoods.”

In order to gain more insight into how health systems work, she decided to pursue a degree in public health.

During her first year at HSPH, Brundage had the opportunity to take the final course taught by William Hsiao, K.T. Li Professor of Economics, who has assisted the state of Vermont, as well as China, Mexico, and other countries in their health systems reforms. “He was very inspiring,” Brundage said. “He spoke a lot about how important it is to be really passionate about what you’re doing, to have a very ethical approach to your work and to be driven by the desire to do good in the world.”

She has also conquered her fear of economics and discovered a new passion that brings together many of her interests: improving the quality of children’s health care.” During Winter Session, Brundage traveled to Wyoming to evaluate maternal and child health home nursing programs as part of a course jointly offered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This summer, she will intern with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio in the Center for Pediatric Innovation.

And as she heads into her second year, Brundage is feeling well-versed in the language of domestic health. “I’ve become more comfortable talking the talk, and also understanding where my past experiences in global health apply.”

Amy Roeder

Photo: Aubrey La Medica