I applied to the HBS and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) MBA/MPP (Master of Public Policy) Class of 2023 to learn about the interplay between the public and private sectors in health care. Health care spending in the United States will soon make up one-fifth of the country’s GDP and over the past decade, legislators have passed countless health care policies that impact how hospitals, insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers deliver services to patients. Even more, the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has uncovered major cracks in the health care infrastructure that will certainly lead to substantial policy change over the coming months and years. At Harvard, the combination of renowned faculty, endless student resources and a location at the epicenter of biopharma R&D made it the perfect place for me to learn more about these issues and identify how I can be at the forefront of effective solutions.

Although the first semester was different than I imagined – with small socially distanced meet-ups, Zoom Office Hours and a closed HKS campus – the ability to dig deep into health care issues with the best professors in the world has blown me away and the speaker-series events at HBS spotlighting experts across public and private sectors have been exciting to watch. Not to mention, I have made some life-long friends along the way.

My background in health care

I began my career at J.P. Morgan (JPM), working in their health care investment banking group focusing on biotechnology and health-tech companies. After about a year and a half, I went to work at one of JPM’s clients to build their Growth Strategy team. After an interesting first several months, I found myself testifying as a whistleblower to various government agencies.

After that slight detour, I was lucky enough to find myself at Flatiron Health, a health-tech company focused on oncology. For the next three years, I worked on building strategic partnerships between Flatiron and biopharma companies developing the next generation of cancer drugs. This experience afforded me a front row view of how policy can redefine the Health care industry and sparked my interest in exploring how the public and private sectors can work together to improve patient outcomes.

With the summer internship search heating up, I am excited to explore opportunities as an intern at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help think through the next wave of innovative policies that will lay the foundation for the health care industry of the future.

The silver linings of Zoom school

There is no doubt that school looks and feels different than it did one year ago. However, there are three aspects of “the new normal” that have been bright spots.

(1) The jointee community

More than anything, I have really loved getting to know my fellow “jointees” - fellow students in the HBS/HKS joint degree. Due to social distancing measures and restrictions, the jointees who were fortunate enough to be on campus have spent formative time together safely. Through outdoor dining adventures, fall hikes around the northeast and socially distanced lunches on the HBS campus, we have gone from strangers to friends to family in a matter of months. I have learned from each and every one of them discussing unique interests in bridging public policy and private sector innovation. This jointee network even connected me with the founder of a health tech company that I now work for alongside school.

(2) Flexibility to explore opportunities outside of school.

Throughout my first semester, I have been working at a health-tech company, Iterative Scopes, leading their business development team. Remote classes and work meetings have afforded me the opportunity to work at an awesome mission driven company, grow my network of Health care entrepreneurs and investors and apply learnings from school in real time. I know several other jointees who have taken advantage of this flexibility to pursue internships at the Suffolk County DA’s office, research positions at the Belfer Center’s Technology and Public Purpose Project and pro-bono consulting projects to assist businesses suffering during the pandemic, just to name a few.

(3) Access to an incredible lineup of speakers.

Harvard is known to attract some pretty awesome speakers, but I have heard consistently that this semester, the quality of speakers was unprecedented. Paul Begala and Jake Tapper joined my Modern American Political Campaigns class to talk about the presidential election as it unfolded in real-time, which was a highlight. In addition, we engaged with Dr. Amy Abernethy, Deputy Principal Commissioner of the FDA, and John Young, Chief Business Officer of Pfizer, to discuss the future of drug development during the HBS Health care Alumni Annual Conference

Importantly, I have noticed that both HKS and HBS have remained flexible and responsive to feedback to continuously evolve and improve the student experience. I am excited to carry the learnings and momentum from the fall into the spring semester and beyond.