On Thursday evening, Helen Burstin, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, walked attendees through her career trajectory at the latest event of Yale’s Colloquium in Healthcare Leadership Evening Series.

“I always knew I was really interested in social justice and health care access,” Burstin explained. “My parents were both Holocaust survivors and met in a displaced Jewish persons camp in Italy. Growing up with parents who were treated as less than human was a driver in the career path I chose.”

After speaking about her experience in medical school, Burstin discussed her experiences working at community clinics. According to Burstin, she completed her residency at Boston City Hospital in primary care and took Thursday-night shifts at a community health center in Dorchester.

Although Burstin enjoyed her positions at the hospital and the clinic, she found herself interested in health policy and research. She would eventually return to school and earn a master’s in public health at Harvard. At Harvard, Burstin published a number of papers on health disparities and quality control within hospitals.

Although she said that she found her work at Harvard fulfilling, Burstin eventually relocated to Washington, D.C., to work in a number of governmental positions related to patient safety, patient outcomes and health disparities.

“I tend to get bored, and I need a new challenge. I constantly need to keep myself feeling like it’s interesting,” Burstin admitted.

The Leadership Series was started in 1999 by Howard Forman, professor of diagnostic radiology, economics and public health, to bring leaders from public, private and nonprofit health care organizations to campus for discussions with students.

The Leadership Series will feature 16 speakers over the course of the 2018–2019 academic year. According to Forman, he tries to select speakers from various backgrounds and disciplines to ensure that the series showcases diverse opinions and perspectives.

“I think that I wanted our students to recognize the vastness of the opportunity that’s ahead of them,” Forman said of starting the Leadership Series. “I want our students to meet people who are leaders in the field and who have been instrumental in changing the way we implement and deliver health care in this country.”

Each meeting of the series begins with Forman asking the audience members which schools at Yale they attend. Forman said that the attendees are most often from the School of Public Health, School of Management and School of Medicine, in addition to a few undergraduates. The Leadership Series is offered as a course through the first two schools and is mandatory for students in the Health Policy and Management track at the SPH.

Attendee Dominique Desroches SPH ’19, a first year in the master’s in public health program, explained that she enjoys the speakers at the Leadership Series and the issues they tackle during their talks. She added that the talks offer exposure to a number of different fields within health care.

Each month, the Colloquium in Healthcare Leadership Evening Series takes place several Thursday evenings in the Beaumont Room of the Yale School of Medicine.

Madison Mahoney | madison.mahoney@yale.edu