Academic scholarship. Mentoring. Community leadership. Teaching. Research. It seems that Bryan O. Buckley, Spartan in Public Health, has accomplished it all. But he’s really just getting started. For Buckley, public health is his vehicle to make the world better.
August 13, 2019
Buckley, a lifelong scholar and an agent of change, completed his degree in MSU’s Master of Public Health (MPH) Program in 2012. “Choosing to pursue my master’s in public health at MSU was like a 180-degree turn in my career,” he said.
A first-generation American citizen, Buckley credits his Antiguan family’s work ethic and academic accomplishments with his drive to constantly pursue further knowledge.
“My paternal grandfather earned his high school diploma when he was in his 30s,” Buckley said. “He eventually went all the way up to completing his doctorate in social work, and he now runs a chain of nursing homes in Washington, D.C., and engages in missionary work with several churches in Liberia, Africa.
“Each time I completed a degree, my grandfather would ask me: ‘What’s next?’ My maternal grandmother, a school principal, was also an inspiration. She would tell me, ‘Education is one’s passport through life.’ So I’ve always thought of education as being key, and that we should constantly be scholars, constantly educating ourselves.”
After receiving his B.S. from MSU in microbiology, Buckley considered a career in medical technology until one of his professors suggested going into public health might be a better fit for his outgoing personality. Heeding her advice, he enrolled in an epidemiology course and entered MSU’s MPH Program the year after.
“I took the epidemiology class and I ended up falling in love with public health,” Buckley said. “It was everything I wanted; I’m all about connections, community and systems—how we interact with the world and how it affects us. I became a huge advocate and champion for public health.”
One of the accomplishments he’s most proud of is his early work as a student on the task force to establish MSU as a tobacco-free campus. He was recognized for that work with the 2016 Michigan Health & Hospital Association’s Outstanding Leadership in Community Health Award.
While in Michigan, he also served as policy committee chairperson and board member for the Michigan Public Health Association, working with the board to write policy statements in response to legislative decisions regarding the Flint water crisis.
Buckley realized that in order to truly institute change in the public health arena he would need a doctorate degree; this has led him to pursue a doctor of public health (DrPH) degree at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “The focus of the DrPH is on change management. It teaches us to be able to make change in any environment,” he said. “The program involves a lot of immersion around management, leadership, communications, and innovative thinking.”
He is now conducting his dissertation work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts—where he works in the executive office as manager of strategic initiatives for advanced illness support (palliative care).
Buckley has a three-pronged tenet he shares with others:
- Stay Hungry.
- Stay Curious.
- Stay Humble.
“Stay hungry. Public health is not an easy field to be in. You’re up against a lot of big systems. And even if you fail, remember that only through failure can we ever truly innovate. And I think in public health we constantly have to do that.
“Stay curious. As new technologies are coming about—telemental health, social media—how can public health be integrated into this? We should be curious not just about the field of public health but other fields that intersect public health. We need to be curious about how we can integrate these in a more seamless way.
“And of course, be humble. We are only a small piece in this world and when it comes to large-scale change, we need others. This field requires a team, a community of people you have to be part of; it’s not about you.”
After finishing his dissertation next year, Buckley wants to be within the nexus of community health and the healthcare industry.
“As my grandfather would say, ‘Use the talents that you have to make the world a better place. Then, mentor the next generation to carry on the work that you started.’ Mentoring the next generation has always been very important to me,” said Buckley, who is currently involved in mentoring through the American Public Health Association (APHA), where he serves as chair of the Community Health Planning & Policy Development section.
“Healthcare has always been my passion,” he said. “We’re starting to get out from behind the four walls of the hospital and thinking beyond, how our environment truly affects our lives—where we live, work and play. I want to be a leader in that space—whether that’s working with a healthcare association, a health system or government.
“It’s not work when you’re doing something you love,” Buckley continued. “Public health affects every single person in a deep, intimate way. If we invest more in it, people will be happier. I’m driven to see the world become a better place, and public health is the vehicle for that.”
Bryan O. Buckley’s Steps to a Public Health Career
2010 - bachelor of science degree from MSU in microbiology, with a concentration in medical microbiology and immunology; Charles Drew Science Scholar (four years).
2012 - master of public health degree from MSU, with a concentration in infectious diseases and administration; public health capacity intern, Ministry of Health, St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies; quality assurance/ essential package of health services intern, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Monrovia, Republic of Liberia, Africa.
2012 – 2013 - prevention epidemiologist - Surveillance of Healthcare-Associated and Resistant Pathogens (SHARP) Unit, Michigan Department of Community Health, Lansing, Mich.
2014 – 2017 –manager, Patient Safety & Quality/project manager Patient Safety Organization, Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) Keystone Center, Okemos, Mich.
2017 – began working on DrPH degree, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.
2018 - business strategy consultant, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass.; summer health management consultant, Business Consulting Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston, Mass.; research associate at Last Mile Health in Boston, Mass.; graduate research assistant at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Cambridge, Mass.
2019 - Teaching Fellow, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.; manager, Strategic Initiatives, Executive Office and pilot lead, Advanced Illness Support Pilot Office (Doctoral Dissertation), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston, Mass.