Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Anam explores U.S. health policy


After graduating in May 2013, Tawsif Anam became southwest Wisconsin regional director for U.S. Senator Ron Johnson.

Tommy Thompson and Tawsif Anam

Tawsif Anam, right, attended the Wisconsin Medical Society's Health Care Policy Forum featuring Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The August 2012 forum assembled Wisconsin's health-care leaders to engage them in a discussion on policy issues affecting Wisconsin and the nation. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Medical Society 2012

Two men talking
Tawsif Anam, left, talks with Dr. Jack Westman, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Below, Anam talks with UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward. They all were at the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families' annual fundraiser "Step Forward for Kids" in September 2012 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Photos courtesy of Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Two men talking

Tawsif Anam has shaped his curiosity about the U.S. health-care system into a career path.

When Anam and his parents emigrated from Bangladesh in 2007, health care was one U.S. system he had to figure out. "The health-care systems are very different," the second-year student says. "In Bangladesh, you just pay for care as you go. There is no insurance. I did not even know what a deductible was."

Now Anam will be helping health-care researchers share their findings and recommendations with Wisconsin legislators and policymakers through the Evidence-Based Health Policy Project, a partnership of the La Follette School, the Population Health Institute and the Wisconsin Legislative Council to bridge medicine and health policy, research and practice, and to link academic research in a meaningful way in service to government and the Wisconsin Legislature.

As a project assistant with EBHPP, Anam will research and provide policymakers in the public and private sectors with timely, nonpartisan, high-quality information to support evidence-based decision-making in health-care policy. He will attend hearings of legislative committees. Anam will also help integrate university faculty research and teaching into the state's public policy by providing logistical and organizational support for legislative briefings and forums.

"The project assistantship with EBHPP is a good forum for me to use the analytical skills I developed during my first year at La Follette," says Anam, who received a fellowship for his first year of study. "I look forward to contributing to Wisconsin's policymaking process and serving the people of Wisconsin."

The experience builds on his health policy internship with the Wisconsin Medical Society, where he conducted research and wrote a white paper discussing policy alternatives to ensure a sufficient physician workforce. He also analyzed federal and state government legislation and regulations to identify their implications for the practice of medicine, responded to physician member inquiries on policies and provided supporting evidence for the society's policy positions. Anam also participated in important organizational events and meetings where he interacted closely with key health-care policy experts of Wisconsin.

During his first year at La Follette, Anam also volunteered with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, an experience that helped him learn about nonprofit management. He helped to organize an annual fund-raising event, and studied several years of financial statements to analyze budget trends.

Growing up in Bangladesh, a relatively newly independent country facing political strife, Anam witnessed strikes, curfews and demonstrations for peace. He heard debates about elections, foreign aid, domestic interest groups and bureaucratic controversies.

Anam encountered some of the same debates about similar conflicts. "The degree of struggle varies," he says, "but people in both countries are unhappy with government, interest groups, their public servants and the private sector."
The debates and policy problems influenced Anam's education. "In Bangladesh, I became curious to learn about government policies and how they affect the society," he says.

As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, he studied comparative international politics, graduating in May 2011 with a bachelor's degree in political science.

Intrigued by the U.S. health-care system, he took an undergraduate health policy course taught by La Follette School political scientist David Weimer. Anam's interest in political science and economics coalesced into a strong desire to focus on public affairs and to work on fundamental policy questions that emerge in society, and so he started the La Follette School's Master of Public Affairs degree program in fall 2011.

"Now I am here in the United States and know this is home, and the government has granted me permanent resident status," he says. "I am learning about the United States and its policymaking process, how the government works."

Anam appreciates how the small size of the La Follette School facilitates contact among students and faculty. "Especially compared to the large undergraduate classes, it is easier to make connections and ask questions with La Follette's small student-to-teacher ratio," he says.

Nearly all new La Follette School students take two introductory courses together, the statistics course Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Public Policy Analysis and Microeconomic Policy Analysis, with about 50 students in each. His Public Management course was even smaller, one of two sections with about 15 students each. By the second week, Professor Susan Yackee had her public management students assigned to groups to work on projects, Anam adds.

In his second semester, Anam chose to develop his quantitative skills further by taking Advanced Quantitative Methods for Public Policy. In fall 2012, he looks forward to taking Cost-Benefit Analysis, Economics of Health Care and Economic Perspectives of Health-Care Reform.

After he graduates, Anam expects to seek a position as a health policy analyst, perhaps in state or federal government or with a nonprofit organization, but he is keeping his options open. "A benefit of the La Follette School's curriculum is that we receive thorough training in quantitative skills that can be applied in any field," he says.

"I want to be a part of that important relationship between the people and government," Anam says. "The best way is to actively participate in public service. I want to use my knowledge of politics, economics, mathematics and statistics to gain a strong foundation in learning and understanding complex policymaking tools, and then eventually pursue a profession in public service."

Student briefs lawmakers on rules related to long-term care, dementia

Second-year student Tawsif Anam shared information with Wisconsin lawmakers about federal regulations related to the treatment of vulnerable adults diagnosed with dementia. Read more ...

Student promotes energy efficiency

Tawsif Anam served through AmeriCorps with the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group in 2011 to conduct energy surveys and promote energy efficiency. "I was in charge of promoting our campaign in the Madison area," he says. "One of the highlights was leading an energy efficiency assessment of Middleton Mayor Kurt Sonnentag's house. I managed to get coverage for our campaign in the Middleton Times-Tribune. I also completed an assessment of the National Mustard Museum in Middleton and gave several presentations at events such as the monthly Get Moving Middleton meeting organized by the Middleton Chamber of Commerce and the meeting held by the Rotary Club of Oregon, Wisconsin."

Tawsif Anam, right, interviews Middleton mayor Kurt Sonnentag as part of an energy audit of the mayor's house.

Tawsif Anam, right, interviews Middleton mayor
Kurt Sonnentag as part of an energy audit of the
mayor's house.
Middleton Times-Tribune photo by Matt Geiger