Alumni Profile: Cecilia Gerard, SM '09
Once a month, the Office for Alumni Affairs highlights the work and accomplishments of an HSPH alumna/us in our Alumni Profiles series. We ask alumni to speak to how their HSPH experience influenced their career path and their work in public health, as well as to share any advice they have for current students.
Cecilia Gerard, SM '09
What motivated you to pursue a public health education at the Harvard School of Public Health?
Head of Clinical Programs
My first job out of college focused on pricing in the pharmaceutical industry. The laws of supply and demand just didn't apply. Subject to insurance contract pricing schemes, and government regulation, you couldn't throw a dart at a single price point. I thought: ‘there's something to this market.’ I needed to learn more about what made health care unique.
How has HSPH impacted your career path?
Friends in the program are my colleagues for life. I've worked with HSPH alumni every step of the way. It's given me a deep appreciation for how diverse and connected we all are. I studied health policy with many of the same professors and researchers who wrote or informed the 2006 Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Law and was deeply inspired and energized by the progress I saw there.
What have you been doing since leaving HSPH?
A lot actually! After a stint in consulting, I joined the Obama administration to build up the new office of health insurance exchanges. We were in every way a start-up--small, underfunded and incredibly motivated. I recently moved back to Boston and joined another HSPH alumnus to launch a start-up supporting family caregivers. We are helping families navigate the complexities of the health care system via mobile tech. Yes, now there's an app for that!
Was there a specific faculty member who inspired you or if there is someone who works in an area of public health you admire? What do you admire about this person?
Sustainable Medicare physician payments, micro-insurance in rural China, Vermont single payer... Health care funding and access problems should watch out for Dr. Bill Hsiao. He's done it all and cares a lot about students.
What advice do you have for current HSPH students?
You are going into the workforce with diverse skills - expect that you may need to educate those around you about what you know and the depth of analysis across fields that HSPH is preparing you to do. You are also studying with one of the most diverse student bodies in terms of breadth of experience that you can find, and yet everyone shares the same passion for health. It's a unique environment that is hard to come by again, so have fun with it! One last thing, go to i-nite every year. People still talk about it.