Michael Dillon’s mission: the ‘incredibly urgent’ issue of LGBTQ health

Michael Dillon in conference room

June 13, 2023 – Before arriving at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Michael Dillon, MPH ’23, spent more than three decades managing mergers and acquisitions at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He discussed how he combined his previous work experience with his Harvard Chan School education to launch a “second act”—advancing health equity for the LGBTQ community.

Before coming to Harvard Chan School, I spent 33 years at one of the largest accounting firms in the world. During my time at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I led teams that helped facilitate mergers and acquisitions for global technology companies, and eventually served on the firm’s senior leadership team as Chief Diversity Officer. Outside of my professional duties, I have long been engaged with LGBTQ advocacy organizations like the Trevor Project, GLAAD, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

After I left the firm, I was looking to kickstart a “second act” focused on social impact and found the right opportunity in the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative. The program felt tailor-made for me, as I was surrounded by other folks who had left their primary careers and were looking to embark on a new challenge. I arrived at ALI in 2020 with ideas as to what this next phase of my life might look like, but found myself returning to my passion for LGBTQ health. The experience clarified my next step—and as a result, I applied to Harvard Chan School for an MPH in health policy, to go deeper on the subject and bolster my credibility in the field.

My experience at the School was enriched by faculty mentors. Faculty members like Meredith Rosenthal and Nancy Turnbull were instrumental in helping me not only learn about the ins and out of health policy, but also provided valuable guidance in how to navigate all the opportunities available to me at Harvard. I gained significant skills and knowledge from my classes and was able to take relevant classes at both Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School. Since I came to Harvard Chan School with a clear focus, I was able to gear my classwork and assignments toward my passions and future interests.

It wasn’t only faculty members that taught me, eitherI was incredibly grateful to be surrounded by passionate and highly diverse classmates. As a non-traditional student, I had a unique background and perspective compared to many of my fellow students. However, rather than a point of division, it was a learning opportunity for each of us; my classmates were welcoming and happy to listen to the life lessons I gleaned in my previous career, and I gained insights from their experiences.

My mission feels incredibly urgent, because right now the LGBTQ community is under serious threat. In this moment, health policies targeted at LGBTQ people are being driven not by science or facts, but by hatred and political outrage. The results are bad health outcomes and needless suffering, especially for young people. So many leaders are displaying a careless disregard for the dignity and health of LGBTQ Americans, attempting to eviscerate support networks that make a massive difference in the lives of LGBTQ youth. Those of us who do care about the mental and physical health of our community must step up.

Between my previous experiences and my new education, I’m leaving Harvard Chan School energized and ready to get to work. As I look to the future, I’m eager to use my platform to drive change. From volunteering and serving on boards to investing in the missions of nonprofits and for-profit companies that address LGBTQ health care, I will use all the tools at my disposal to support innovation and service. I’m ready to spend my second act stepping up, leaning in, and creating change.

Jeff Sobotko

Photo courtesy Michael Dillon