On Nov. 12, the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame recognized professor Elizabeth Bradley GRD ’96 as a Global Impact Honoree.
The honor, awarded to 10 women this year, recognizes women who have made important global contributions to their fields. The ceremony, held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, honored Bradley for her expertise in global health and health management, which has strengthened healthcare systems in both the U.S. and developing countries. She has worked for almost two decades on designing ways to maximize positive health outcomes despite limited resources.
“[The honor] is given to a woman who is widely known within her field, who is a leader, and who has had an impact not only in Connecticut but around the globe, and obviously Betsy [Bradley] brings that tremendous leadership,” said Katherine Wiltshire, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. “This is a woman who has remarkable integrity, who has done incredible work, who has improved quality of care in hospital settings but is also working to better the health systems around the world, and [those qualities] really spoke to us.”
According to Wiltshire, an initial pool of around 50 to 70 nominees is narrowed down by an honorary advisory committee to a final list of roughly 10 honorees each year. Each finalist embodies the values of the annual theme. This year’s theme, “Connecticut Women — Global Impact,” celebrated women who had made distinguished contributions, not only in the U.S., but also abroad.
Bradley’s current work in health care management focuses on Ethiopia, where she works to provide the best possible care with the most cost-effective use of resources. She also aims to establish good management principles at the level of primary care in Ethiopia with the potential to serve hundreds of thousands of people.
“We are trying to bolster, through strong management and strong data, [the health resources] at ‘the last mile,’” Bradley said. This “last mile” — the distance from the health care provider to the individual consumer — is the hardest stage in the resource distribution process. Bradley emphasized that improving hospital culture and management could save lives at the hospital level in the U.S., while community-based, outpatient and other first-line forms of health care could help achieve positive health outcomes more broadly in developing countries.
Bradley has also served as master of Branford College since 2011 and as director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute since 2009, when she first founded the institute.
In addition to those positions, Bradley will become the director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy in January, taking over from current director and history professor John Gaddis. According to Bradley, the purpose of the program is to teach undergraduate and graduate students how to apply “lessons from the humanities to achieve large ends by scarce means.” Bradley added that the Grand Strategy program stresses the importance of utilizing resources where they are most effective, a principle that she has incorporated in her work elsewhere. She noted that this practice can be applied toward a number of different fields, such as security, climate sustainability, economic advancements and health.
This versatility is part of what makes Bradley unique as a researcher, said Leslie Curry, senior research scientist and lecturer at the School of Public Health, who has been a friend and colleague to Bradley for almost two decades. Curry cited Bradley’s ability to expand theories in management into practical health care applications and practices as a key strength in her research.
“She has been able to develop a high-level conceptual, theoretical project [that was also] a seminal work in health care,” said Curry, referring to Bradley’s work in using “positive deviance” — a method in which high-performing organizations function as a template for crafting practical improvements in an area of interest such as health care quality. With this approach, Bradley analyzed organizations that consistently demonstrate exceptionally high performance in caring for patients with heart attacks, to generate and test hypotheses about what improved patient-care performance. Bradley said using this technique, she was able to make changes to hospital practices that helped lower mortality rates and increase the percentage of patients who received their needed treatment from 30 to 90 percent.
“[Bradley is] incredibly transparent and open in the way that she works in academia,” said Curry, who co-authored a paper with Bradley on positive deviance. “She has a gift for connecting [to individuals] in different settings and contexts.”
Bradley’s colleagues praised her energy and devotion to her work. They noted her intense passion as a motivating force in her work ethic.
Rafael Perez-Escamilla, professor of epidemiology and a colleague of Bradley, said she is a highly assertive, energetic scholar who thinks outside the box.
Perez-Escamilla, who has worked with Bradley to develop models for scaling up family health interventions, said he could not think of anyone more deserving of the honor than Bradley.
“I’ve seen her sketch out her ideas on a napkin in a diner,” said Curry, referring to Bradley’s tirelessness in serving others. “[Those were] precious moments, just watching her create something and go.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misquoted Katherine Wiltshire.