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William & Mary Shapes Health Policy

As part of the celebration of its 15th year, the Schroeder Center for Health Policy hosted a panel discussion of William & Mary Public Policy Program alumni who are currently working in the health policy field.  The panel took place on Friday, April 13, 2018, and was attended by nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.

Panelists focused on their experiences in the public and private sector and provided advice to students.  Michael Cassidy (MPP ’99), President and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, moderated the panel.  The four panelists included Carol Blackford (MPP ’95), Director of the Hospital and Ambulatory Policy Group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS); Ashley Gray (MPP ’14), Director of State Affairs, Medicaid, at the BlueCross BlueShield Association; Massey Whorley (MPP ’08), Senior Policy Advisor to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Joanna Young (MPP ’07), Senior Director at Avalere Health.

The discussion began with panelists describing their current health policy work, which covered a wide range of activities. Blackford, for example, oversees $270 billion in Medicare spending for a federal agency, while Whorley has focused on efforts to expand Medicaid under Virginia’s current and past governors. Gray spoke about her work on legislative and regulatory efforts related to Medicaid for an association, and Young described how her work at a private consulting group prepares data-driven policy analysis. Cassidy, the moderator, shared his own experiences from managing a business that provides advice on fiscal and economic policy issues. 

Panelists then spoke about their experiences in William & Mary’s Public Policy Program, focusing on those student activities that helped them the most in their current jobs.  A common theme was the importance in understanding quantitative data and the political environmental as well as participating in activities, such as the 24-48 hour policy memo and the Policy Research Seminar (PRS), which mirror panelists’ responsibilities in the workplace.  Among the myriad of classes offered to graduate policy students, classes in economics, political environment, administrative law, and health policy and law were mentioned as being particularly useful.

Finally, panelists offered advice to students who will begin careers following graduation.  Several panelists stressed the importance of treating people with respect in the workplace even when disagreement exists on politically charged issues.  Others stressed the importance of understanding the basic structures, including laws and rules, under which an employee’s organization operates; staying current on the health policy issues for which an employee is responsible; knowing when to “pivot” on issues; feeling comfortable with political transitions; and being able to work effectively with political appointees as well as civil servants. 

Following the panel, panelists and attendees adjourned to Tyler Commons for a networking reception.