People

Rachel Dungan, MSSP'13

Rachel Dungan, MSSP’13

  • Director, AcademyHealth

As a Director at AcademyHealth, Rachel Dungan works to advance the field of health policy and systems research (HPSR). Rachel oversees a work portfolio focused on studying the effective and ethical engagement of diverse stakeholders in health research and policymaking activities. She also contributes to AcademyHealth’s Paradigm Project, which uses human-centered design approaches to invite creative, innovative thinking about ways the health research enterprise might change – to return on its promise for real-world impact. Rachel also helps to cultivate AcademyHealth’s Global Health portfolio, and to support other projects promoting the use of evidence to inform health research, policy, and practice decision-making. Having been awarded a 2019 Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, Rachel recently spent several months living in Cote d’Ivoire and working with the country’s Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene; she simultaneously conducted independent research on stakeholder engagement in national health policymaking efforts.

Rachel previously worked for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant awardee, leading development of products and programs designed to increase health equity, access, and education for underserved populations. Rachel also worked as an independent strategy consultant and project manager for Music2Life, JustRojgar, and Johnson & Johnson’s TEDxJNJ initiative. She completed professional internships with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women), Think Local First DC, the Future of Music Coalition, and Poverty Resolutions.

Rachel holds a Master of Science in Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice. She also completed an Executive Certificate, through the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS). She earned Bachelors degrees in Biobehavioral Health (Civic & Community Engagement) and in Music, from the Pennsylvania State University Schreyer Honors College. There, she served as a Teaching Assistant with the University’s Department of Health Policy & Administration. Her research focused on global health equity, social justice advocacy, and eliminating avoidable disparities in health. Beyond her work, Rachel also participates actively in the vision research and patient engagement advocacy communities. She has spoken at related conferences and Congressional Briefings; she has also been featured in the SparkVision Millennial Voices series, and on other platforms.

“Participating in the MSSP program was transformative for me, as a person and a professional. Coming at the curriculum from a background in biobehavioral health and civic / community engagement, I benefitted from the opportunity to contextualize my knowledge of theoretical concepts – in more applied settings. This program proved unique because it offered students an ability to develop practical and technical skills, while reviewing content through the lens of whatever policy or topic area best resonated with their interests or aspirations. While I was keen to better understand the processes and practices that contribute to effective and ethical policy change, I appreciated that the program form and structure didn’t force me to compartmentalize between my content knowledge in public health and my policy studies. This ability to integrate my interests actually enhanced my ability to apply the skills and strengths I developed, while enrolled in the program – once I moved out into professional environments. As a direct function of my work at Penn, I was prepared for a valuable internship experience with UN Women’s Strategic Partnerships Division (Civil Society Section). In my current role – situated directly at the intersections between health research, policy, and practice – I benefit from my Penn experience, daily. MSSP programming prepared me to be adaptable, and to connect with individuals influencing policy in multiple sectors. It’s rare to find a program multifaceted enough to support learning about the multiple aspects and implications of policy decision-making (ethics, economics, legalities, sociocultural dynamics, etc.); I benefit from having learned how to approach policy-centric work, from multiple angles and diverse stakeholder perspectives. I also utilize the technical research writing and quantitative analysis skills that I honed, while at Penn, on a daily basis.”

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