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The Importance of Communicating the Right Way

A self-described “constant learner,” Andrea Clark ’18 earned a BA in economics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—and then set out to discover how to apply it in the real world. After working in nonprofit development and IT project management for a few years, she was ready to go back to school and fulfill her desire to learn more about healthcare.

She earned a Master of Public Health from Boston University with concentrations in social/behavioral sciences and health policy/management, working as a research assistant at the same time. “I didn’t think there could be effective community health programs without the support of health policies at the government level,” she explains. “I wanted to marry those two things to make sure I had a comprehensive understanding of public health.”

Two years later, when family commitments called her back to Chicago, she found a project management position with Northwestern Medicine’s Department of Innovation. The work she was doing inspired her to go back to school once again: this time to earn an MS in Health Communication from Northwestern.

After learning about the program online, she met with the program director and discussed her desire to engage people in becoming healthier. “We can tell people the science all we want, but they’re not going to understand it if we’re not communicating it in a certain way. It’s never going to resonate,” she says. “I was noticing a lot of that in my work. I wanted to know: How can I do better?”

Coming from a larger school, Clark was excited about having a small cohort to work with throughout the year—and about Saturday classes so she could keep her full-time job.

“I went in with eyes wide open,” she explains. “I was already working in the hospital system, but I knew that wasn’t going to be my endpoint. I wanted to learn how to develop better skills and grow my network and community in Chicago.” As soon as classes started, Clark says she put lessons into action as quickly as possible.

She learned alongside a wide variety of professionals: nurses, doctors, researchers, advertisers, entrepreneurs, etc. “It was fascinating to learn how they think about things and hear what has worked for them,” she says. “It was a holistic learning experience. We learned not only from our professors, but also from our peers.”

After graduation in 2018, she landed at a Chicago healthcare startup as an operations program manager, helping practitioners work more efficiently and effectively by providing tools, technology, operations, staffing support, and industry relationships to deliver high-quality patient care.

Earlier this year, she was recruited by Quartet Health, where she now serves as a general manager, working to connect Illinois Medicaid recipients in need of mental health services with a local provider who accepts their insurance and has the right specialty.

“I started right when the pandemic hit,” says Clark. “Suddenly, with new regulations and executive orders, everything went virtual. We were able to remove some of the barriers to mental health services. It’s a really exciting time to be part of this. Anxiety and depression have increased rapidly, along with an increase in the Medicaid population. I find value in my work by supporting people who need help.” Recently, her team made a move to expand nationwide, bringing its services to a total of 32 U.S. states.

Working hand in hand with the company’s marketing team, she helps make sure the information they present is easy to understand, written at the right reading level, available in multiple languages, and engages the target population.

“We have those conversations constantly,” she explains. “How do we talk to people about what we do and provide? How do we relay that information in different settings, such as a health fair? How do we talk about the stigma around mental health and that it’s okay to seek help? Addressing these issues is a perfect blend of what I gained from my Master of Public Health program and the MS in Health Communication program. This role helps me put into practice what I’ve learned.”