Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, June 29, 2020

Davis advances health justice as Center for Patient Partnerships co-director

Sarah Davis Sarah Davis

 Following 15 years as associate director of the Center for Patient Partnerships (CPP), Sarah Davis (MPA/JD ’02) was recently promoted to co-director. An interdisciplinary center based at UW–Madison, CPP works to ensure that patients influence healthcare reform so the system is responsive to their concerns.

“I am thrilled to lead CPP with Jill Jacklitz (MSSW ’96) in CPP’s next chapter,” said Davis. “Interdisciplinary perspectives are hugely beneficial for solving complex problems, and we are excited to walk our talk with a co-director model.” 

Throughout the years, Davis has worked with several La Follette School students, including Annette Crawford (MPA/MPH ’20), at CPP. The students experience a patient’s perspective of healthcare in the United States as they support navigation through intertwined systems such as insurance, public benefits, and employment. Students also influence policy through “case-to-cause” projects.  

In addition, Davis serves as associate program director of LIFT Dane, which seeks to reduce legal barriers for families through technology and other system disrupters. She was instrumental in LIFT Dane receiving a $1 million award from Schmidt Futures via DreamUp Wisconsin, UW–Madison’s implementation of the Alliance for the American Dream initiative.

LIFT Dane is creating an online platform that facilitates self-help and increases efficiencies. Many people do not realize there is a legal solution to a financial problem, Davis said. LIFT Dane hopes to make a “Legal Tune Up” a routine habit, so people identify and address outstanding civil legal issues frequently – like they get an annual health exam and change the oil in their car.

In her role with LIFT Dane, Davis also served as a client for a group of La Follette School students for their Workshop in Public Affairs (PA 869) capstone project during the spring 2020 semester. The students provided several recommendations for how LIFT Dane could improve and expand its impact.

“Of course, the work product quality was exceptionally high,” said Davis. “Plus, the students presented their report so it could be implemented immediately.”

In addition, Davis teaches and conducts research as a clinical professor at UW–Madison’s Law School. Her scholarship focuses on barriers and facilitators to healthcare quality improvement initiatives and community programming to address health-harming social determinants. Davis also serves as the dual degree advisor at the Law School for JD/MPA students. 

“A thread in all my work is system transformation,” said Davis. “How can we make systems work for the people they should be designed for?”

Davis received her master’s degree in public affairs and juris doctor degree from UW–Madison in 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in science in society at Wesleyan University.

Describing the value of a La Follette School education, Davis said. “I can’t speak highly enough about the value of a public affairs degree. The La Follette School curriculum is action oriented. Students graduate ready to dig in and contribute substantially to the policymaking process or program implementation.”

- Written by Peter Mosher