Skip to main content

From the Classroom to the Capitol: Gretchen Jacobson, PhD’s Journey in Public Health Policy


Gretchen Jacobson's career path demonstrates the convergence of comprehensive academic training and a steadfast dedication to public health. After graduating from the Department of Health Policy and Management, Jacobson, PhD ’07, embarked on a path which led her to some of the most impactful health policy circles in the U.S. 

Beginning her career at the Congressional Research Service, she worked as an analyst, a role that provided not only a deep dive into health policy analysis, but also a platform to engage directly with congressional staff and members of Congress. "Because of the research and analytical skills I gained at HPM, I was prepared to engage with policymakers in dynamic and rapidly evolving policy discussions,” Jacobson said.  

Her professional path continued at Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), where she began to shape significant research initiatives focusing on the Medicare program and its beneficiaries. Here, the foundation she laid during her time at HPM proved invaluable, enabling her to lead substantive research efforts and contribute to policymaking discussions on a national scale. 

Currently serving as the vice president of Medicare at The Commonwealth Fund, Jacobson synthesizes all aspects of her extensive training and experience to manage a portfolio of internal and external research projects, continuously influencing health policy and practice at the highest levels. 

When asked about the specific skills and knowledge from HPM that have been particularly beneficial, she emphasized the ability to sift through extensive research and information on new healthcare issues. “HPM taught me not only to identify key questions that could inform policy but also to develop answers that drive meaningful change,” she said.  

Reflecting on the highlights of her professional journey, Jacobson shared experiences of working alongside remarkable colleagues, which stand out as pivotal moments. These include testifying before Congress—a milestone that underscored her role in shaping health policy—and contributing to influential journal articles. Additionally, moderating panels of experts in the health policy field has been a recurring highlight, offering her a platform to share insights and engage with leading voices in healthcare. 

For current graduate students about to embark on their post-graduate journeys, she offers advice rooted in personal experience: Seize every opportunity, no matter how daunting it may appear. Jacobson underscores that the rigorous training and instruction at HPM prepare students exceptionally well for the challenges they will face, often more than they might initially believe. 

Jacobson’s career clearly illustrates how targeted education in health policy and management can equip individuals to play crucial roles in shaping healthcare policy, research, and practice. It also serves as an inspiring blueprint for graduates aiming to impact public health significantly.