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Evan Benjamin ‘17

Chief Quality and Population Health Officer, Baystate Health

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How did a Public Health Service doctor go from developing diabetes programs on the remote Zuni Indian reservation of New Mexico to a leadership role at a $2 billion health system serving 800,000 in Western New England? Sometimes Evan Benjamin wonders that himself, but when it comes down to it, it’s about values.

“The values really haven’t changed,” says Benjamin, chief quality and population health officer for Baystate Health, a 5 hospital, non-profit health care system based in Springfield, Massachusetts. “It was always about improving the care for the patients—not just thinking about one patient at a time but really thinking about how do you improve care for populations?”

Now, Benjamin oversees an academic quality improvement department at Baystate Health where he also helps to create the population health strategy for the system. He teaches at Tufts University School of Medicine, runs a quality improvement fellowship for medical residents, and speaks widely about health care delivery. In spring, 2015, Benjamin traveled to Dartmouth to give a talk and sit on a panel when he realized he could potentially teach in the health-care delivery science program. Then a novel thought arose: What if he enrolled in the program?

“We are in the midst of a dramatic change in our care delivery model,” says Benjamin, who is helping Baystate navigate the transition from a fee-for-service-dominated system to a population-health-based system. “So it becomes really important to know new models of care and to hear what others have experimented with and which have worked, because we really have to get this right.” Through the MHCDS program, Benjamin is also learning more about effective management and leadership—skills he has absorbed through experience but never formally studied.

“Even after the first two weeks, I was able to take ideas about how we should do strategic planning differently and bring it into the planning process for a large health system,” he says. “And it’s almost a luxury to be able to sit in the classroom and have the formal education and to think these big thoughts that you usually don’t have the time for in your busy life.” It’s also, in a word, fun—particularly the six weeks the students spend on campus together.

“Our class has really bonded as colleagues and as friends,” says Benjamin, who is also a father of two, a private pilot, a cyclist, skier, and hiker. “It’s kind of like going to summer camp.”