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Health-policy expert wins
Photo by Emma Dodge Hanson
Public-health researcher and professor Helen Halpin Schauffler '73
Skidmore I learned I could do what I love and be valued and rewarded
for itthe choice of what to do would be the hardest part." So
said Helen Halpin Schauffler 73 in accepting Skidmores Alumni Periclean
Scholar Award last fall. Evidently she chose wisely, for she also said, "I
love my job. They will have to carry me out of there in a box!"
That job is a
teaching and research post in health policy at the University of California at
Berkeley. Along with teaching in Berkeleys School of Public Health, Schauffler,
who directs the Health and Public Policy Program, is the principal investigator
for some $2.2 million worth of research. Her biggest study is the five-year Health
Insurance Policy Program, which tracks access to health insurance in California
and issues reports to state and federal policymakers. Schauffler has testified
before the U.S. Senate and the California legislature, is a member of the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundations national advisory group on tobacco control, is
the policy editor for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and
serves on advisory boards from the California Wellness Foundation, to Children
Now, to the Bay Area Business Group on Health.
Her work neatly
combines her two primary interests as a Skidmore student: teaching and science.
As she told the Family Weekend audience of Periclean students, friends, and family
members, she entered Skidmore under the assumption that women were limited to
being wives, nurses, or teachers, so she planned an elementary-education major.
But her first science courses so intrigued her that she instead became a biology-chemistry
major. "I had no idea how I could use a science degree," she said, "but
I went ahead with it. And I learned the meaning of excellence, a love of scholarship,
and a passion for research."
In fact, change
marked every aspect of Schaufflers Skidmore career. "I arrived in 1969
at an all-female college with curfews and parietal restrictions," she recalled,
"but soon we had co-ed dorms, the Pill, and free love. There
was a powerful surge of feminism, and I realized I could do everything a man could
do. In the spring of my freshman year, the students here (as at other colleges)
shut down the campus in protest of the U.S. bombing in Cambodia." In the
midst of this turmoil, Schauffler found a mentor and role model in Professor of
Chemistry Charlotte Fahey. "She was one of very few women teaching in the
sciences. As well as a scholar, she was a wife and a mother. She was my inspiration."
So much so that Schauffler became a scholar, a wife, and a mother too.
Schauffler earned a masters degree in public health at Harvard. Then, as
a member of the Arthur D. Little consulting firm, she provided management and
planning advice to hospitals and health departments, and later, for the Massachusetts
Department of Public Health, she directed cholesterol screening, hypertension
control, blindness prevention, and other programs. She did some teaching at Harvard
as well, but she knew she needed a doctoral degree to continue in her career,
and she won a Pew Foundation fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. in health policy at
Brandeis University. With that Ph.D., she landed her faculty post at Berkeley.
much of her success to skills gained at Skidmoreand she advised the students
in the audience to hone those skills too. "At Skidmore I learned to write.
I urge you to take courses that require lots of writing; its especially
important for publishing in academe. I also learned leadership skillsfrom
being director of communications during the student strike to being
vice president of Periclean." From those experiences, she said, she went
on to be a PTA president, serve on the Berkeley faculty council, and otherwise
help shape her community. Schauffler also pointed to her summer fellowship at
the University of Rochester Medical School, where she learned electron microscopy.
"Internships are invaluable. I urge you all to take advantage of such opportunities."
told the group, "At Skidmore I discovered that being smart doesnt exclude
having fun. I was a Sonneteer all four years." In terms of personal growth,
navigating change, and career preparation, she concluded, "Skidmore helped
me see my potential and gave me the tools to achieve my goals."
And with her words
still ringing in the auditorium, the Periclean honor society began its annual
fall induction ceremony, welcoming fresh recruits into the ranks of the smart
and the fun. SR