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Q&A with Alumnus Eric Chapman: His NIH Career and Graduate School Pursuits

July 22, 2013

Eric Chapman graduated from Drexel’s Health Services Administration program in Spring 2012. He works with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and his professional and academic affiliations include the American Society for Public Administration, Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Drexel University Alumni Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He is currently enrolled in Johns Hopkins University in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Public Management.

Chartings: What has life after the Drexel HSAD Program been like for you?

Eric Chapman: Since graduating, I moved to the metro Washington D.C. area to accept a position with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a sub-agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Chartings: Which aspects of the HSAD Program at Drexel helped prepare you for your career?

EC: The courses in the Drexel HSAD program are excellent preparation for a career in health care administration. The HSAD curriculum provides an exceptional grounding in various facets of health care, including history, politics and policy, finance, administration, law, and population health. The faculty was instrumental; the professors possess remarkable academic credentials, impressive practical experience and professional networks, and a resolute dedication to the success of the students. The knowledge they shared with me every day during my studies informs my current understanding of complex health care issues and guides my decision-making process.

Chartings: Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

EC: I chose to pursue a graduate degree to (1) expand my knowledge of the cross-cutting issues that impact health care access, quality, and cost and, (2) to obtain a higher-level position within the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires an advanced degree.

Chartings: How did the HSAD Program prepare you for graduate school?

EC: Early in the HSAD Program, I shifted my career focus from private industry to the public sector. As I progressed through the HSAD courses, my appreciation of health care as a primary determinant of individual attainment (educational, social, professional, financial, etc.) developed and my commitment to public service deepened. During the course of the program, I had the opportunity to take two Behavioral Health Counseling courses as electives. The confluence of my professional work and HSAD coursework formed my graduate research focus: the organization, financing, staffing, and technology of mental health services and their impact on quality of care, patient outcomes, resource allocation and costs. I devote special attention to research on the impact of federal and state mental health policies and services on vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, uninsured, underserved and disabled persons.

Chartings: How did you hone in on your career focus after graduating with an HSAD degree?

EC: Six months after starting the program, I began working for the Social Security Administration analyzing disability appeals. A significant proportion of disability appeals involve mental disabilities, mental health issues with concomitant physical conditions, and dual diagnoses with addiction disorders. In the latter half of the program, I made the decision to pursue a career with the HHS and dedicate my professional life to the prevention and treatment of mental illness and the promotion of mental health. After graduating with an HSAD degree, I possessed an academic credential that allowed me to obtain a position with HHS and gain acceptance to graduate school.

Chartings: Do you still stay in contact with your professors and mentors from Drexel’s HSAD Program?

EC: Since graduating, my professors have written recommendation letters for my graduate school applications, served as academic references and have been unending sources of encouragement.

Chartings: What advice would you give students graduating from the HSAD Program?

EC: Reflect on courses, lectures, and assignments that were especially meaningful. Next, contemplate the resonance and root out the factor(s) that made them especially impactful: subject matter, people affected, skills involved, methodology, etc. And, circumstances allowing, pursue positions and volunteer opportunities that correspond with those factor(s). In short, choose a career path that matches your interests as opposed to molding yourself to fit a career.