Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Shaun Willis


MS '15

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and Coverdell Fellow sharpens analytical skills

Shaun Willis aims to inform health policy with robust data

Shaun Willis became interested in strengthening health systems while working in northeastern China as an undergraduate. After a personal health emergency that required attention beyond what the local community could offer, he was driven to study the vast inequities in health care around the world.

Upon graduation from Portland State University, he served as a Community Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, where he worked to fight HIV/AIDS and decrease new HIV infections in the region. Through his work with the government and local non-governmental organizations, he learned firsthand the challenges and rewards of working at the grassroots level to promote health systems. “Above all, I learned that fundamental change must first take place at the policy level if it is to enhance the lives of the most vulnerable,” Shaun says.

Shaun decided the MS in International Health Policy and Management at Heller was the perfect fit with his global health experience and desire to pursue a career in health policy. Specifically, he wants to study the intersection between monitoring and evaluation, health metrics, and data visualization to help inform and influence global health policy.

Shaun was initially attracted to the length of the program, noting that in nine months he will have a solid background in health policy upon which to build his career. Another highlight for Shaun is the analytic focus of the program. He particularly enjoys the Applied Linear Regression course, which takes a novel approach to statistics. Instead of a focus on math, the professor emphasizes students’ interpretations, forcing them to turn statistical information into accessible terms for the public. Shaun feels this skill will prove useful in the workforce when he attempts to inform health policy with data.

Lastly, the diverse and welcoming community at Heller has both surprised and impressed Shaun. “Everyone is open and accepting of different cultures,” he says. “I had no idea how amazing it would be until I got here, and it reaffirmed that I made the right decision to attend Heller.”

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