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Moving the Needle in Health Communication

When it came to writing, communication, and leadership, Kayee Ip ’16 knew she wanted to do so much more—but felt like she was missing the leverage she needed to move her career in that direction.

She first fell in love with communication during her time at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she participated in the Office of Public Affairs’ pilot practicum program as she earned bachelor’s degrees in communications and psychology.

After she graduated in 2001, she worked for a few public relations agencies and a smaller nonprofit before landing a public/media relations role at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “That’s really where I saw a connection from my work to what I was passionate about,” she explains. “I had family members with health issues and wanted to help others through public education so people could learn about ways to take care of their own bodies in addition to seeing physicians.”

On a train ride into work one morning, she saw a billboard for Northwestern’s MS in Health Communications program and decided to investigate. The one-year format seemed doable—especially considering that she would be working full time. After learning how the program could add to her career experiences, she decided to apply.

“I wanted to be able to bring value to my employer in terms of the public health conversations we were having,” she explains. “I wanted to help address some of the challenges our membership was experiencing and reinforce the public’s understanding of what orthopaedic surgeons do. I needed to come to the table and be ready to help address or start those conversations with my colleagues. I was investing in myself with this program.”

For Ip, the most memorable moments came in the first quarter as she returned to college for the first time in 15 years. The How Interaction Works course, taught by Dr. Barbara O’Keefe, helped her think about communication in a new way, breaking down the considerations that go into positioning policies or guidelines for stakeholders. “That information continues to drive some of the things I do in my professional work,” she explains.

She credits the U.S. Healthcare System course, led by Dr. Dave Liss, with boosting her understanding of how public policies impact public health and access to care.

She also learned from the insights and experiences of her cohort, who formed a Facebook group to cheer each other on, ask and answer questions, and host online study sessions. “We were really trying to rally each other so we could get to that finish line together. I’ve gotten some great friends out of the program, which is a great value-add that I wasn’t quite expecting.”

In mid-2019, Ip joined the College of American Pathologists (CAP). In her current role as the manager of the CAP Presenters Program and media relations, she primarily equips members and staff leadership with presentation skills so they can deliver information to audiences in an impactful way—especially in today’s virtual world where most meetings are taking place online.

Additionally, she connects journalists to subject-matter experts to help create greater awareness of pathologists as integral members of a patient’s healthcare team and the impact of pathology in laboratories worldwide accurately diagnosing COVID-19.

“I love the work I do,” says Ip. “With my experience, I’m literally creating programs and projects from the ground up. I have meaningful interactions with the physicians and executive leadership I interact with on a regular basis. I want to be able to say the word ‘pathologist’ to any person on the street and have them know exactly what those professionals do. It’s really exciting to be able to move that needle for any organization I work with.”