Doug Jacobs

Alumna Profile

Doug Jacobs

Doug Jacobs

Zuckerman Fellow
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, MPH ’15
Primary Care Physician, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School

What specific leadership lesson did you take away from any of the co-curricular sessions or other activities while a CPL fellow?

Soon into my fellowship year I learned the importance of surrounding oneself with pure-of-heart, driven, and thoughtful people with diverse interests and talents. As a Zuckerman fellow, I got to be part of an amazing incubator of talent that brought together brilliant people from all parts of the country, with backgrounds in law, medicine, and business, committed to solving the world’s most pressing problems. Among my fellows, one was a physician and world expert on obesity, another was a lawyer who taught special needs students, and another was a talented businesswoman trying to save the environment, just to name a few.

Once every few weeks, we did a “dream trust” exercise, where one of us would present to the rest of our cohort about a challenge we were facing. As a then-medical student with an interest in health policy, the health problems of our nation sometimes felt overwhelming. But, armed with my new friends, these very large problems became surmountable.

Talk about the elements of the fellowship experience that were most meaningful within your specific cohort.

As a cohort we traveled to Jackson, Mississippi to speak with leaders across different sectors. Particularly salient for me was when we spoke with the Medicaid director of Mississippi. It’s no secret that Mississippi has a different political bent than Boston. Our nation has become hyper-partisan, and we often we don’t get opportunities to engage in a meaningful way with people who think differently from ourselves. Getting out of my liberal bubble was an important experience—speaking with the Medicaid director made me realize that we had more in common than I expected. Since my fellowship, I try to seek out opportunities to speak with people who hold differing opinions because reaching across the proverbial aisle can be a powerful way to generate hope for the future.

In what ways do you think the CPL Fellowship and HKS experiences have helped you get better at what you do or hope to do?

During my fellowship I had a unique opportunity to tackle a pressing problem facing the nation. After the Affordable Care Act, insurers were no longer allowed to discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions. However, I identified that several insurers were finding ways to sidestep this requirement, such as making all drugs used to treat high cost conditions (like HIV) unaffordable. When I published research about this in the New England Journal of Medicine, my co-fellows (during my dream trust and beyond), helped me coordinate how to translate this research into policy change. The Department of Health and Human Services subsequently passed a regulation that categorized this price gouging as a form of discrimination and outlawed the practice. After the regulation, medication prices dropped for the 1.1 million HIV-positive Americans and others.