For the first time ever, the Peter Harbage Fellowship has chosen a Ford School or University of Michigan alumni. Named in honor of Peter Harbage (MPP ‘93), the one-year fellowship provides fellows with “a year-long experience to deepen learning and capabilities in leadership and health care policy within California.”
Ruqayya Ahmad (MPP ‘21) is one of two Peter Harbage fellows this year, and will be hosted by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN). Previously, Ahmad has worked for Kamala Harris, current vice president and former senator (D-CA), and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Her previous experiences will inform her future work in the health policy field, Ahmad said.
Something that is so important in health policy, especially when you’re working directly with affected communities, is mobilizing diverse stakeholders and building coalitions to develop and implement effective policy solutions to challenging problems.Ruqayya Ahmad (MPP '21)
“Something that is so important in health policy, especially when you’re working directly with affected communities, is mobilizing diverse stakeholders and building coalitions to develop and implement effective policy solutions to challenging problems,” Ahmad said. “I’m excited to learn how to harness my existing skills, and develop these new skills that are going to be essential in advocating for equitable health policies in California. The fellowship lies at the intersection of advocacy, equity, and health policy. [We’ll be] addressing racism, police use of force against people of color, access to mental health care, access to oral health care, and other barriers to quality care for California’s marginalized communities. I am looking forward to contributing to eliminating health disparities and working towards improving health outcomes for all.”
For another “first” for the Harbage Fellowship, they will be welcoming not just one, but two fellows, due to the quality of applicants.
“We had the most qualified applicant pool to date,” Ingrid Aguirre Happoldt, executive director of the fellowship, said. “Ruqayya stood out for her own compelling personal connection to health equity issues, her cross-section of experiences including legislative, executive and community professional roles … All of this combined with her commitment to health equity and a calm, caring, hardworking demeanor made her an amazing choice for CPEHN and the fellowship.”
The Peter Harbage Fellowship was established after Harbage’s untimely death in 2015. After receiving his Master of Public Policy from the Ford School, Harbage dedicated his life to making high quality health care accessible. According to the fellowship’s website, “Peter’s belief in what health care could become was responsible for his success in developing national health care policy and advising policy makers at all levels of government. His intelligence, compassion and positive attitude gave him the strength to face challenges with courage, humor, and resilience.”
“I felt really grateful to Peter Harbage [when I got the fellowship],” Ahmad said. “He is an inspiring Ford School alum, and his work has been monumental in reforming not only California’s, but the entire nation’s health systems. I’m excited to continue his legacy and be on the front lines to continue the work that he’s done to improve our health care systems and connect vulnerable people to care.”
Over the next year, Ahmad will focus on the intersection of racism and health care inequity. “[She] will be addressing health inequities in California, including efforts to declare racism as a public health crisis,” Aguirre Happoldt said. “Ruqayya will work alongside a dedicated and passionate team to remove barriers to health care and work toward improved health outcomes among California’s diverse communities.”
“We are thrilled to have her,” Aguirre Happoldt said. “I am truly happy that a U-M MPP will be representing the fellowship. I know Peter would be so proud.”
This article was written by Olivia Bradish.