Career Spotlight: Emma Berca Hatcher
Describe your current position and what led you to your job?
I work in the Washington, DC Government Affairs office of a multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer. I work on health policy issues surrounding the safety of the pharmaceutical supply chain, prescription drug costs, FDA approval of new drugs, among many others. I began my career in DC after completing my graduate degree in Health Policy at Brown. My first position was with a health policy consulting firm which exposed me to various clients and various healthcare policy issues. That experience was invaluable. I gravitated towards projects for pharmaceutical manufacturer/pharmacy clients because I found the work to be very interesting – and very challenging. It was in this position that I began to develop an expertise in pharmaceutical policy…and the rest is history!
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
March 23, 2010 when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama. I won’t get into the politics of the passage of the bill. It wasn’t a perfect bill (very few are). It is not a panacea to all that ails the U.S. Healthcare system. It was, however, a privilege to watch firsthand the introduction and eventual passage of one of the largest and most comprehensive reforms to our healthcare system since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. It was a big day in our country’s history and a very important moment in my career.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Don’t burn bridges. Keep yourself in the (relative) good graces of others working in your field because you never know who will be your next colleague or boss. I cross paths with people from my past jobs all at time. I think it’s important to maintain good professional relationships with anyone in your field, including ex-employers and ex-colleagues if you don’t want to get in your own way as you advance in your career.
What challenges have you faced and how did you successfully manage one situation?
Working in Washington, DC is often quite challenging due to the slowly moving, often combative federal legislative process. As most folks know, there is often a lot of "gridlock" in Washington, DC. Critical healthcare legislation often moves slowly – or not at all. Working within this process can be quite frustrating.
There is clearly no one "fix" to this issue. A lot of patience and learning how to work well within this system are part of being successful in this field. Walking past the stately U.S. Capitol Building on my way home from work doesn’t hurt either.
What would you recommend to someone interested in working in your field?
On a personal note, I think it’s important to have a true passion for working within this field. Many find health policy issues "interesting" – especially as healthcare reform has become part of a national conversation. But it takes a lot of dedication and belief in advancing our public health system to do the job day to day.
On an academic note, it’s important to have a very good understanding of the U.S. healthcare system and all of its intricacies. It’s also important to have a solid understanding of the federal legislative and regulatory process which is at the heart of how healthcare policy decisions are made and implemented.
Anything you would like to add?
I’d encourage anyone interested in healthcare policy to intern or work in Washington, DC even for a short period of time. In my opinion, there is no health policy experience equivalent to working on healthcare issues impacting the entire country. Working on a national stage has provided me with a unique vantage point and true appreciation for the complexity, strengths and weaknesses of our healthcare system.