Maggie Northrop, class of 2017, has been busy this year. In addition to her role at DHS as the State Health Plan Coordinator she has been assigned to the COVID Resilience and Response Taskforce. Her focus is on mental and behavioral health, interpersonal violence, immigrant and refugee health and finding support in DHS' response. Her work in policy and experience as the State Health Plan Coordinator has prepared her well for these additional responsibilities.

“I think of myself and my role as the connection across the department and the work happening in the community. I work to ensure what DHS is doing is not happening in a vacuum, that we are not keeping work siloed, and bringing external partners to DHS to work together,” Maggie said regarding her role. 

Maggie Northrop
Maggie Northrop

Bringing in external partners has been a vital part of DHS’ COVID response, “We (DHS) have created space for community voice and stakeholders to respond. DHS as a whole has done good work thinking about who our policies impact and HOW each community is impacted differently.”

With the start of the MPH Fall semester, in conjunction with her role as DHS, Maggie is taking on nine first year MPH students for PublHlth 780: Evidence-Based Decision-Making (taught by Barb Duerst) as the DHS liaison. 

“We ask students to think beyond public health and the root causes. We get students to link policy, systems thinking and change. The whole continuum” Maggie said. “[Through this experience] students see the practice and implementation of public health; the struggle of public health. It’s why I come back.”

This is her fourth year working with MPH students and her second as the DHS liaison. By the end of the semester, students are asked to present three interventions, programs or policies to address their chosen program area. Often program areas are behavioral health based and almost all students will start with a Priority Area for Wisconsin or a specific behavior to address.

“My role as liaison is to act as the connection between the students and stakeholders. We invite stakeholders to their presentations and pass the information along. There are some very innovative and new ideas from the students!” said Maggie. “I am impressed by their thinking across the continuum and their thinking of who are the people involved in the policy and decisions. It is impressive how Barb has facilitated this connection in the students.”

It’s this thinking across the continuum and working with the tensions of facilitating policy that continues to drive Maggie. “The best part of what I do, and the worst, is that we are working towards what seems like an impossible dream. How do we get others to talk with each other for better health for all? Policy defines what is possible.”