Daniel Ray has the passion for health care in his blood. His grandfather was a general surgeon in New Britain for 37 years. His uncle is a vascular surgeon, his aunt a radiologist and his cousin is finishing up medical school. But Ray’s interest in health care took him down a slightly different path and it was spurred on by the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
After receiving his undergraduate degree in political science, the Farmington native headed to Washington, D.C. where he interned for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chaired by now retired U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman. However, Ray quickly learned it wasn’t securing the homeland that people on Capitol Hill were fired up about.
“It was inescapable. Everywhere you went, people were talking about health care reform,” explains Ray.
The Affordable Care Act had passed Congress in March 2010 but was facing numerous legal challenges and was being hotly debated all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. “It became impossible not to form a passionate opinion about health care and public health. It sealed my fate. That’s what really sparked my interest to go back to school.”
In the fall of 2013, Ray came home to Connecticut and enrolled full-time at UConn Health to earn master’s degree in public administration and public health.
Why earn both an MPA and MPH?
“As an administrator, I wanted to be more than just a numbers, finance guy. I wanted to be able to understand the people coming through our doors. I wanted to be able to take part in the conversation as to how we can improve their health outcomes.”
Ray says over the past three years he’s learned a lot about epidemiology and the social determinants of health, as well as patient rights and the law.
“It’s a changing landscape. With the ACA really being put into place now, hospitals are being reimbursed on patient outcomes and different quality metrics and patient satisfaction surveys. If we’re not doing our best to cater to their needs, that’s going to be reflective of how much the institution receives in reimbursements from the government and private health insurance.”
Following graduation, Ray will continue his education by doing a two-year fellowship with hospital administration at UConn Health. His ultimate goal is to be the CEO of a hospital or health system in a public or university environment.
“I like the campus atmosphere. I like the fact that students are coming through here, that medical students are being trained here. It creates more of an interesting, learning environment,” says Ray. “I also like the fact that university hospitals are always looking for innovative ways to get better and improve patient outcomes. It’s not necessarily about turning a profit. It’s about patient care.”
Earning two master’s degrees, each with its own curriculum, internship, and capstone requirements, has been intense and Ray is looking forward to having some free time again. “It’s what I’ve been living and breathing for the past 3 years. It’s been exhausting. But overall it’s been a great experience and I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my life and hopefully being a positive agent for change in the health care and public health communities.”