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Alumni Profile: Rachel Nuzum
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Alumni Profile: Rachel Nuzum
Assistant Vice President
Federal Health Policy, The Commonwealth Fund

 

Rachel Nuzum was completing her MPH in health policy and management when Dr. Barbara Orban, chair of the department, nominated her for the David A. Winston Health Policy Fellowship, a prestigious award that provides recipients a unique opportunity to learn about the political system through exposure to health policy development in the public and private sectors.

"I hadn’t fully decided what my next step would be after finishing my graduate work, but I knew I wanted to be at the forefront of policymaking—at the intersection of politics and health policy—and that the opportunity to go to Washington and become immersed in the action was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Nuzum says.

Rachel was one of two Winston Fellow nominees selected from graduate programs across the country in 2004. The one-year fellowship was indeed the turning point in her career, exposing her to many unique opportunities. One of the most rewarding aspects of her orientation period was the process of conducting informational interviews with key health policy leaders in both the private and public sector.

"From the FDA Commissioner to the Senate Majority Leader—not only did we have access to these people, but they were looking forward to having an active dialogue with us,” she says. "Our access to the experts still boggles my mind. In just three months, I met with over 150 of the most influential health policy leaders in the nation.” This process was made even more exciting by the fact that it directly preceded the 2004 election.

When it was time to choose between working in the public or private sector, her encounters with health policy leaders helped her decide to work for Congress. During her fellowship, she worked for New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee that covers all of the discretionary health programs. She worked on the Senator’s legislative agenda and focused on issues concerning the FDA, Medicaid, SCHIP, obesity prevention and many others.

"There came a point a few weeks into my placement when I realized: I’m advising a United States Senator,” Rachel recalls. "To be integrated so quickly into the office as part of the staff was an opportunity that would have only been possible with the fellowship.”

The Winston Fellowship provided Rachel a remarkable network. She stayed on Capitol Hill at the end of her fellowship, later serving as a legislative advisor. It also played a key role in attracting her to her current position as the senior policy director for The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation devoted to improving the health care delivery system. She has been with the Fund just over two years. Working closely with the Fund's Commission on a High Performance Health System, she is responsible for implementing the Fund's national policy strategy for improving health system performance. This involves building and fostering relationships with members of Congress and the Administration, as well as other stakeholders, to ensure that the work of the Fund and the Commission informs the national health policy debate.

Nuzum is very optimistic about the country’s new leadership and its commitment to moving towards a high performance health system. She is especially pleased that leaders at the national level are recognizing the importance of expanding access, improving quality and slowing the cost growth simultaneously. Rachel says these three factors where the core triad of her graduate training. "The health policy program gave me a good broad base knowledge and exposure to all of the policy issues that I work with presently,” she says, referring to her experience at the USF College of Public Health. When asked how she sees the future shaping up for graduates of Public Health and other health programs she responded "I think there will continue to be a role for those who understand the complexities of how the delivery system operates and the politics involved with changing it.”

Nuzum encourages USF students who are interested in a career in health policy to consider the Winston Fellowship. She is happy to provide more information on the work of the Fund, health reform activities in general or the Winston fellowship to interested students.

Sign on to the alumni online community by clicking here, to connect with Rachel and learn more.


 

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