A certified public account and attorney, Ben Assad Mirza has already had a successful career in civil litigation. Ready for new challenges, in 2016 he moved from private practice to a large health system in south Florida where he served as in-house counsel.
Inside the health system he discovered that gaps of knowledge frequently existed between policy makers, physicians, administration and allied health professionals. To deepen his own understanding of health care delivery, he chose to pursue a formal education that would build upon his skills in finance and law. A believer that life is about continuous learning and there is no substitute for formal education, Ben is now a student in the Advanced Professional MPH program’s health policy track at Yale. “Stacking and honing one’s skills, makes one a stronger team member,” says Ben. “To truly improve health care, the industry needs individuals with can view the system more strategically.”
Away from his family for the year, Ben chose to live in downtown New Haven where his apartment overlooks the center of the Yale campus. He has made a point of attending conferences, talks and lectures by leaders from many disciplines all within health care. “One of the big nuggets I’ve acquired is a window into how others view this industry and the world around it.” People in particular disciplines are trained to think in certain ways. Public health is a broad discipline that is well designed to deepen the knowledge and draw upon those interdisciplinary perspectives. That is critical to how the health care sector not only delivers primary care, but partners and integrates into the fabric of the local communities.
Putting these principles to work was made easy at Yale. Ben was recruited by an acquaintance in the School of Architecture to join a team competing in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition. The Yale team, which includes three architects and a business student, was one of four national finalists that presented their work in Washington, D.C. in April.
The project was to develop an affordable housing project in San Antonio, Texas. “This was a real project with real money,” says Ben. The students partnered with the house authority and community stakeholders to put together a housing plan that enhances the city’s river walk, facilitates people’s mobility and access to transportation, jobs, fitness centers, child care, healthy food outlets and health care. Architecturally, the apartment buildings maximize use of San Antonio’s climate and encourage healthy lifestyles through tiered designs; natural lighting; attractive, open, wide staircases, sitting areas outdoors near the bus stop and wide sidewalks along the river.
A key strategy proposed in the project was to partner with local hospitals by providing neighborhood health education, screening and wellness programs. “I now see the hospital’s role in the community very differently,” says Ben. “They can’t be stand-alone institutions, they must be woven into the infrastructure of the community to achieve the right results.”
As he winds up his MPH studies, Ben is keenly aware that his broader perspective will make him a more effective health care advocate. Having been inspired, in part, by his father’s devotion to the U.S. Constitution and discussion of ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ Ben internalized that mantra and believes delivery of health care is a part of the American dream. “There is no other country in the world as progressive and colorful as the fabric of America.” Ben would like his work in health care to build on this country’s tradition, while closing the gaps that exist between the policy and the delivery of health care to communities.