Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, February 3, 2020

Austin harnesses Wisconsin Idea at DHS

Sam Austin Sam Austin

Sam Austin (MIPA ’08) joined the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) as a senior policy advisor in December 2019.

Austin, who most recently served as director of UW–Madison’s Evidence-Based Health Policy Project (EPHPP), said he is looking forward to advancing the department’s mission of promoting the health and well-being of Wisconsin residents, and putting the Wisconsin Idea into practice.

“It is hard to overstate the impact that DHS has on the health and well-being of our state,” said Austin, “I am excited to be joining a team that can improve public policy and help find ways to advance health and equity in Wisconsin.”

At DHS, Austin will develop and implement key health policies, support executive initiatives like the Governor’s Caregiving Task Force, and build opportunities for cross-division and cross-agency collaboration. His work will impact the millions of Wisconsinites who benefit from the state Medicaid, elderly care, population health, and behavioral health programs.

“My education at the La Follette School and my experiences through my career so far have prepared me to hit the ground running in my new role,” said Austin. “In addition to the writing and quantitative training that I gained at the La Follette School, the most important skills were being able to think analytically about a problem and figuring out how to tackle that problem as part of a team.”

Throughout his career, Austin has maintained a commitment to nonpartisanship and the Wisconsin Idea. At the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), Austin learned from Director Bob Lang and his colleagues about the commitment to nonpartisan rigor as a member of the Health Services and Insurance team.

At EBHPP, Austin facilitated collaboration between UW–Madison and state government to inform good health policymaking. EBHPP is a partnership of the La Follette School, UW–Madison’s Population Health Institute, and the Wisconsin Legislative Council.

Austin also recently participated on the La Follette School’s Strategic Planning Committee.

“The committee provided the opportunity for deep thinking and discussion about the School’s mission and vision, and its place in state, national, and international policy dialogues,” he said. “These big conversations are vital as the School navigates the opportunities and challenges in front of it in 2020 and beyond. It was a rewarding and energizing experience, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate.”

- written by Peter Mosher