Making Health Care More Accessible, Affordable and Human — A Global Health Alumna Interview with Rachel Park (WCAS 2010)

Rachel Park, WCAS ’10
Majors: Economics, International Studies
Minor: Global Health

Rachel Park graduated from Northwestern just as the Affordable Care Act began to completely reshape the landscape of health care in the U.S, something that drastically increased the number of Americans with health insurance and spurred dramatic changes in how health care works.

Joining the health and sciences practice of Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm, Park spent four years working with health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and global health organizations all over the country.

Versailles_18.JPGPark said the global health program at Northwestern ignited her curiosity about health care, and that her experience studying abroad through IPD at Sciences Po in Paris had a profound effect on her understanding of the way health care systems function.

“It helped me realize that I was passionate about helping improve the U.S. health care system,” she said. “I have no doubt that my time in Paris is what gave me the fluency to get through my interviews and work with big clients in the health care industry.”

While at Oliver Wyman, Park had the opportunity to take a five-month sabbatical sponsored by the firm to work at Partners in Health in Boston, an organization that Park has admired since learning about it at Northwestern.

Park worked with Jon Shaffer, the senior strategist for community organizing (and a fellow Northwestern alum), to launch a brand-new initiative called PIH Engage, which is a nationwide network of volunteers. PIH Engage seeks to build a movement to advance the right to health through community organizing, education, advocacy and fundraising, she said.

Currently pursuing an MBA and a Master’s in Public Health at the University of California–Berkeley, Park spent the past summer interning with the Native American Health Center, a federally qualified health center in Oakland, California.

Working through the Community Wellness Department in the Fruitvale neighborhood, she helped provide medical, dental and mental health services to residents of all backgrounds — though the NAHC has special expertise in serving the urban Native American community in the Bay Area, she said.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the resulting increase in people with health coverage, the Community Wellness Department has begun to factor in the role of insurance in their business model, something that Park helped study and model.

“(The department) addresses people’s health needs through everything from Native American spiritual ceremonies and cultural events to traditional individual and group psychotherapy,” Park said. “Given these unique offerings, the department has traditionally been mostly grant-funded, with insurance playing a secondary role.

Park said she spent her summers while in college at a wide array of internships, from a Fortune 200 corporation, on-campus at the Institute for Policy Research, and even in a communal house in post-Katrina New Orleans.

However, it isn’t worth agonizing over which internship or activity is “best,” she said. Instead, she said it is important to think about what opportunities will help you learn something new, which can be shaped into the kind of experience you want.

“It’s easy to get paralyzed by the number of choices in front of you or to be tempted to create a perfect story ahead of time,” Park said. “(My internships) didn’t make for an easy story on my cover letter, but I did learn a ton through each of those summers.”

Regardless of whether an internship goes the way you expected, there’s always something you can learn about yourself, other people or institutions, Park said.

“Over time, this process of reflection will help you articulate the values you won’t compromise on, what types of people you want to work for, how much structure you want in a job, and more,” she said.

Though Park said she hated the concept of networking in college, she has come to realize it is really just about genuinely getting to know other people and figuring out ways you can work together. By being open to approaching people with curiosity about their lives and their perspective on the world, you’ll find that people love talking about themselves and their work, she said.

“Have a good conversation. Send an interesting article about something you talked about,” Park said. “The health care world is a less intimidating place to try this out since many of us are working toward the same shared mission to make health care more accessible, affordable and human.”

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