Our Alumni: Harsha Amaravadi (MPH ‘17)
Tufts empowered Harsha Amaravadi (MPH ‘17) to transform her love for biology into a career dedicated to shaping innovative new Medicare policies.
You earned your Bachelor’s degree at Tufts, then decided to continue on with your MPH. Why?
As an undergraduate, I was a biology and community health major, but more focused on biology. In the summer of my junior year, I participated in a biostatistics training program, which was my introduction to public health and public health data science. I really enjoyed it and appreciated the applied nature of it, and I decided during my senior year to continue my education and earn my MPH.
What do you consider some of the highlights from your time at Tufts?
One highlight was my advanced health policy course. Being able to blend epidemiology biostatistics with policy is something that I really loved. If it wasn’t for that course I wouldn’t be in my current field.
During the program I worked with a professor, Tom Stopka, to geographically characterize inappropriate opioid prescription practices in MA, as well as other complications of the opioid crisis. We also worked to understand the spread of Hepatitis C in Boston among people with opioid use disorder. I enjoyed working with patients and participating in research that affects the community around Tufts; it was one of my first clinically focused public health research experiences and it helped me understand what it really means to conduct public health in the real world.
How would you characterize the relationship between students in the Tufts MPH program, and between students and faculty?
Having such small classes was wildly different than my undergraduate experience, and it allowed me to better connect with my professors and the course material. There was a sense of collegiality, where everyone is treated as a peer. I’m still in contact with people from my program both friends and professors - they’re great mentors and a great community to connect with about health policy-related news.
Every Tufts MPH student completes an Applied Learning Experience (ALE), which gives them a chance to expand their learning in real-world settings. What was your project?
During my ALE I worked on a remote project with the American Psychiatric Association related to mapping suicide outcomes and mental health provider availability. The project tied in with my research, and at the end of the program, I got to travel to Washington D.C. and present my work.
Can you share how Tufts helped with your career development?
Career Services helped me shape my resume and practice mock interviews. When I decided that I wanted to work in D.C. I spoke to professors for guidance on the transition, and some of my courses featured guest speakers from applied fields who were always willing to chat with me about career and job opportunities.
Where are you working now?
I’m a health analyst at Mathematica where I work in a team broadly focusing on health policy research to test and implement Medicare payment reform projects. I ensure that quantitative outputs from analyses are logical and pass data sensibility checks based on health policy and content knowledge, and write analysis instructions in plain language for statistical programmers to implement. It is really rewarding to work on innovative projects that help shape the current health policy landscape to improve quality of care and lower costs.
What advice would you share with someone considering getting an MPH at Tufts?
Data is such an important part of healthcare, and Tufts has strengthened its curriculum to follow the demand for data in public health. A Tufts MPH teaches you how to use data in innovative, interesting ways… It’s a very versatile degree, and it’s given me a strong foundation that I used to pivot my career.