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Faculty Spotlight: Laurie Graham

May 09, 2022

Laurie Graham, M.P.H. ’12, works at the intersection of health care technology, business and public health. She has more than a decade of experience in strategy consulting for national health plans and state governments. Her experience ranges from “on the ground” implementation of value-based payment to setting a vision for market transformation through strategic partnerships. As Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at Optum, she facilitated the development of enterprise growth initiatives for United Health Group. In addition to consulting work, Graham is a lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health and an adjunct professor at Boston University School of Public Health, where she also sits on the Advisory Board for the Health Policy and Management Department.

Graham will be teaching Leading Health Care Transformation in Fall 2022. This course will feature experience-based insights and leadership perspectives on how the industry is evolving. Students will consider ways they can motivate and inspire their organizations to look beyond existing paradigms to support public health outcomes.

What drives you in the work that you do? What are you passionate about?

Transformational leadership in public health requires adopting a long-term vision with the best strategies to prevent disease, promote health and prolong life for the population. For this reason, transformation can be challenging and rewarding, but not always popular. It can be fraught with contradiction and divergent opinions. But I love a diversity of ideas. I am passionate about working inside a space of tension and opportunity. I’m excited to feature experts and current health care leaders in this course for a broad and meaningful conversation about improving the U.S. health care system. Yale’s EMPH students are special in that they are already working and engaged in projects where they can influence change. Class discussions and assignments are designed to have a real-life application to the student’s current or future employer. I enjoy watching how academic conversation can inform active business decisions.

Why did you choose a career in public health?

In public health, the question we try to answer is, “How can we manage limited resources and optimize cost, quality, equity, and access?” Meanwhile, in business, the question is often “How can we create more resources and optimize growth?” Public health offers the widest lens to impact public policy and to answer these questions in a way that serves both the bottom line and societal good.

Day-to-day, my work involves creating a unique and valuable market position for my clients. This means making tradeoffs in choosing what not to do and building partnerships to accomplish a specific focus. These activities allow me to connect stakeholders across traditionally adversarial relationships and develop trust for a new frontier of tech advancement and health improvement. With so many paths to take, and tradeoffs along the way, I find working in business strategy with a public health mindset is endlessly frustrating and fascinating – which keeps me coming back!

What is the most significant challenge facing your field of study today?

Access to complete and accurate health information is a common challenge. However, I have found the most significant challenge in my field is sustained enterprise focus and lasting stakeholder commitment toward public health initiatives. Transformation is a process that starts before the destination is fully defined. The scope can be significant and potentially broader than a specific organization or industry. In practical terms, it doesn’t fit neatly into a business use case. Even when there is complete and accurate data to develop a business case that should be funded or an evidence-based argument that can be published, the corporate focus and cross-sector cooperation required for a paradigm shift are challenging, especially when it is tied to solutions for the common good. Transformation requires investment in a longer-term vision that will raise the tide for all boats, and this tends to conflict with traditional ROI and zero-sum thinking. The COVID-19 pandemic helped change this. I see a growing appetite to change the status quo and believe we are at a pivotal moment to drive a deeper and enduring level of positive transformation. I’m working to make this more approachable for the students. They are important actors in moving the conversation forward.

Submitted by Sabrina Lacerda Naia dos Santos on May 09, 2022