HCMP Alumna Brings Research Skills to Harvard Position

OCTOBER 10, 2013 - Melissa Higdon (NHS’07), MPH, has recently begun a new position at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, led by Michael E. Porter, PhD, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School.

The alumna – who majored in health care management & policy at Georgetown and went on to complete her MPH in health policy at George Washington University in 2010 – is providing research and operational support for the institute’s health-related initiatives.

She says the HCMP major positioned her well for the job.

“The major gives you the basis for a lot of different careers and credibility,” she says.  “With the position I am just beginning, for example, they looked to see if I had taken accounting and strategic planning.”

Massachusetts Medical Society

Before her new role, Higdon worked for two years as the manager of research and policy at the Massachusetts Medical Society – an organization that publishes the New England Journal of Medicine and serves as the statewide professional association for physicians and medical students.

While there, she was involved with several of the society’s major studies, including the 2012 and 2013 MMS Physician Workforce Study.

“I worked on survey design, pulling a random sample of physicians, making sure the sample was representative, overseeing administrative assistants who entered the data, and completing the initial analysis of the data,” she says.

A Research Background

Higdon credits the work she did with Michael Stoto, PhD, professor of health systems administration at Georgetown, with preparing her for a career in research.

She provided research assistance to Stoto, who is a faculty investigator on the Linking Assessment and Measurement to Performance in PHEP Systems (LAMPS) project that is housed at Harvard School of Public Health.

“I learned so much about pure research from working with LAMPS,” says Higdon, who has co-authored several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.  “I don’t think I would have gotten my position at the medical society without all of that research experience.”

Engaged Faculty

She says the LAMPS project also helped sharpen her presentation skills.

“All of the presentation experience I got while going to conferences and meetings was really good experience for working at the medical society where I’d have to present the results of the Physician Workforce Study to a room full of physicians.”

She stays in touch with her former faculty from Georgetown and says she continues to rely on their advice.

“You get to know the professors so well,” she says.  “Having them serve as a sounding board is so helpful.”

By Bill Cessato