Robert Nelb, BA/MPH '09

Leaving legacy at YSPH, from national think tank to campus blog

As he nears the completion of Yale’s five–year BA/MPH program, Robert Nelb, MPH ’09, has created an extensive legacy—from a national think tank to a campus–wide blog. And with a Senate internship behind him, he’s landed a government job at graduation.

Raised in West Chester, Pa., Robert Nelb reports a long–standing interest in public health. “I got thrown into the health–care system from a young age,” he says, noting that he observed its workings firsthand after his father became paralyzed. “Once I came to Yale, I realized the real place to make a difference in public health was in protecting people from getting sick in the first place.” His first year on campus, Nelb founded the Yale Public Health Coalition, an umbrella organization of 40 different student groups and over 500 students tackling public health issues in New Haven and beyond. As a sophomore, Nelb began taking MPH courses toward his joint degree, with his BA in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale College preparing him for coursework in the Health Management program at YSPH. Last summer, as an intern for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Nelb delivered a comparative analysis of diabetes policies in New York City, London and Paris—subsequently helping New York formulate its policy recommendations. He writes a column called “Public Health Perspectives” for the Yale Daily News, and his blog is, he hopes, another catalyst for student action.

On a broader scale, Nelb serves as national health policy coordinator for the Roosevelt Institution, a think tank that has spread from Yale and Stanford to encompass 75 campus chapters working on progressive policy. “The core issue is how to transition from a ‘sick–care’ system to a ‘health–care’ system,” says Nelb. “We need to switch our focus to primary care, prevention, the patient.” This past summer, while serving on the Senate Special Committee of Aging, Nelb contributed to a committee report on making nursing homes safer. His discussion paper for the Brookings Institution, detailing a proposal for automatic enrollment in health insurance programs such as Medicaid and S–CHIP, was presented to Congress and included in the CHIP Reauthorization Bill of 2009.

After graduation, Nelb will become a Presidential Management Fellow, working in the Obama administration’s Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate roll–out of the Recovery Act. After honing his leadership skills at YSPH, he’s well–prepared to thrive in the nation’s capital. “Scholarships from Yale opened the door to opportunities that I would have never thought possible,” he says.