Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hartzman approaches health policy systematically

Alex Hartzman


In 2013, Alex Hartman joined the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute in Washington, D.C. After graduating in 2012 with a dual degree in public affairs and public health, he continued to work as a public health preparedness planner for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. He also did research and analysis for the Center for Patient Partnerships.

In summer 2011, Hartzman combined his interests in public management and infectious disease epidemiology by working for DHS's Division of Public Health on the University of Wisconsin–Madison Closed Point of Dispensing Project.

"This project is the creation of a mass clinic plan for UW-Madison in the event of a bioterror attack or epidemic disease," Hartzman says. "It is the direct implementation of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant and is giving me valuable experience with a state health department."

He also worked with DHS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Strategic National Stockpile's Cities Readiness Initiative on exercises around the state.

Avid debate about health-care reform gave Alex Hartzman the career focus he was looking for.

As an intern for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Hartzman found himself caught up in daily discussions with co-workers about the pros and cons of the federal government overhauling the U.S. health-care system and expanding access to health insurance. The discussions so inspired the astrophysics major that he decided to study health policy.

"I had been considering my options for what to do after I finished my bachelor's degree," says Hartzman, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with a bachelor of science degree in 2009. "I thought about law school, but it was not a good fit for me."

In addition to gathering and preparing information on health policy for the representative's staff, Hartzman advised the military legislative assistant on science-intensive military contracts, wrote commendations for the Congressional Record, conducted research and handled communications with constituents.

After his second summer in the Washington, D.C., internship, Hartzman returned to Madison and worked as a student advocate for the university's Center for Patient Partnerships, through which he earned a certificate in consumer health advocacy.

He began his dual degree in public affairs and public health in fall 2010. He added the Master of Public Affairs to ensure he gained the policy edge and perspective on federal government. His interest in health policy and commitment to public service helped to win him the Ina Jo Rosenberg and Shiri Eve Leah Gumbiner Fellowship established this year by Noah and Shelley Rosenberg.

"The Rosenbergs' gift means lot to me," says Hartzman, who is using money for food and textbooks. "It's nice to know an alum cares enough about the university and what I am studying to make a donation. It's a big boost to me."

Systems analysis will be the focus of Hartzman's studies. He found professor Tom DeLeire's course on the economics of health care to be a fascinating application of a macro, institutional perspective. Hartzman also recognizes that his hands-on experience with the Center for Patient Partnerships gave him valuable perspective on the challenges individuals face as they negotiate the health-care system. The center advocates for and empowers clients with chronic or long-term life-threatening illnesses to make more informed decisions about their care. "A systems approach to health care cannot be all that meaningful without understanding the patients' perspective," he says.

Hartzman finds that his math skills from physics translate to policy analysis so far. "Both involve analytical techniques and problem-solving in an abstract way," he says. "Both involve problem sets and working with groups to solve them."

Hartzman ultimately hopes to work for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "I come from a family of government workers," he says. "I have a lot of trust in government, a strong belief in government services. If private industry does not provide services, the government needs to step in and make sure systems are in place."

— updated June 7, 2013