Looking forward to a compliance-consultancy future

Photo of Marielle Reataza

Marielle Reataza plans to finish the Health Policy and Law degree within one year.

  1. AmeriCorps trip to provide medical relief in Tanzania in 2007 = commitment to a healthy population
  2. Teaching science courses to underserved high school students in South Central L.A. = interest piqued in policy

It was these two defining life experiences that spurred Marielle Reataza to complete her medical degree from UC Irvine. But when a chronic-illness diagnosis forced her to rethink pursuing a demanding medical career, Reataza turned inward to discover her calling: “I wanted to go back to health policy, but I didn’t know how to go about it,” she recalls. “There wasn’t really anyone I could turn to to talk about health policy.”

And like so many of us faced with unanswered questions, Reataza turned to the Internet. “I did a lot of research into the different types of programs; when I found the HPL program, it made the most sense. The HPL program’s goals and curriculum aligned more with what I believe in and what I want to do in health policy. It made sense that I would be learning health policy and law because they go hand-in-hand.”

Planning to complete the degree in just one year, Reataza took time after completing her finals to speak with us about her experience thus far and her career aspirations.

On choosing an M.S.:

After learning about the M.S., I knew I didn’t want an M.B.A. as it’s more geared toward health administration. An M.P.H. is too broad. The M.S. would give me the knowledge of public health and the business knowledge of an M.B.A. Because it’s health policy and health law, it’s all-encompassing in terms of the knowledge and expertise that I want to build. Also, the M.S. equips me with the knowledge to pursue careers that someone with an M.P.H. or an M.B.A. would go into.

The M.S. equips me with the knowledge to pursue careers that someone with an M.P.H. or an M.B.A. would go into.

On learning in an online environment:

It’s been quite different because I was always a lecture-attending person; I was the one who sat in the front. What I really like about the online program is that I can log on to the lectures whenever I want. I don’t have to be in a lecture hall at 8 a.m., I don’t have to have four lectures in a row. I can be at home or at a coffee shop. Because the lectures are recorded, I can pause and rewind, making it easier to learn the material. The professors are clear about deadlines; I can tailor my schedule so that the class material syncs with my lifestyle. I can set aside time for lectures and reading and homework.

On interacting with classmates and professors:

The online environment has surprisingly brought a lot of our classmates together despite geographical differences. Even though we don’t see each other face-to-face, I still have strong connections and bonds with my classmates and professors. I’ve learned a lot from my classmates’ and professors’ class posts. The professors have created an environment in such a way that if you ever need help, you can schedule office hours: You just log in and the professors are there to answer your questions.

On fellow classmates’ different perspectives:

I’m so glad that I read their posts and their perspectives because I would think, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” When you’re in a classroom environment, you don’t have those lengthy discussions with your classmates because it’s not on any forum that has been recorded or you don’t have access to your classmates’ posts. It’s been a really great experience.

The online environment has surprisingly brought a lot of our classmates together despite geographical differences.

On her capstone project:

My project is about shared decision making: when a patient comes in to discuss with his/her physician and they have a common understanding of what the goals of the care are going to be. It’s a lot more patient-centered, because patients now have a lot more information about different care options. In medical school, I was taught that I was the gatekeeper of information. But when I got sick and wanted to discuss options with my physicians, I didn’t feel that my physicians were having this type of conversation with me. Why aren’t my physicians listening to me and coming up with goals that matter to me? A lot of studies have shown that when you involve a patient in the decision making, they have better health outcomes because it’s more meaningful to them when you include them in the conversation. I’m also looking into how the Internet and social media have affected shared decision making.

I was talking to Professor King about my capstone and the future of health care under the Trump administration. Basically, Trump wants to decentralize health care, placing more emphasis on local and state governments. California is a very unique state in that it adopted a lot of ways to help more people get insurance. When you look at other states that didn’t adopt the Medicaid expansion, was it political or financially related? It’s really hard to say why. What I really like about the HPL program is that I can ask these types of questions. I’ve heard a lot from my professors about where health care is going, but there is still a lot that we don’t know.

On career goals:

I want to go into consulting for a government agency, doing research in health policy and law. I’m learning a lot from my professors in terms of their career paths. I reached out to them for that type of mentorship. For example, Dr. Gregg Cochran talked about helping companies remain compliant on health policy and law. I could see myself consulting for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Or doing research for the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The capstone project is complementary to where I want to go next. For example, companies are trying to find ways to have their employees be more healthy and how does shared decision making help those employees stay healthy. If you have healthy employees, they’re going to use less health care services, which will drive costs down. If I can help corporations or startups in such a way that we make their employees’ health care more efficient—in terms of cost and defining objectives—that’s where I can find my niche.

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