Matt Miclette is a second-year Penn graduate student and Policy Associate at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Having received a Bachelorâ€™s of Science in Nursing from the University of Vermont, and having served in the United States Army, Matt recently completed his Master of Science in Social Policy at Pennâ€™s School of Social Policy and Practice and has one more semester before receiving a second masterâ€™s degree, in Public Health, from the Perelman School of Medicine.
Mattâ€™s career development has been a constant reflection of his desire to serve his community. Clinically, â€śnurses spend the most time with patients and provide the social support essential for healing. The Army was an extension of this thought process. As an Army Nurse Corps Officer, I was able to treat those who lived by a shared value of selfless service.â€ť He began his career caring for patients injured during deployment, which he found challenging, but he explains, â€śthere was immense social support for those service members suffering physical injuries,â€ť whereas â€śthe psychological injuries were too often overlooked.â€ť Matt took it upon himself to help fill that gap; so, after three years of tending to physical wounds, Matt became a behavioral health nurse.
That change, however, only opened his eyes to more problems. In particular, he was disappointed that inpatient behavioral health did not receive the support it deserved. â€śMy patients did not have access to cable television, because it took the hospital over a year to fix [it]. Further, the support staff that delivered group activities slowly stopped showing up for various reasons,â€ť leading to gaps in service. However, rather than getting discouraged, this simply got Matt into working in policy, to push for systemic changes that would improve patient well-being and quality of care. â€śI decided to advocate for parity in treatment by joining committees that developed facility policy. My teams had great success, reducing behavioral health restraint use by 74% throughout the facility in three years and increasing patient satisfaction to over 90% on our unit. While direct patient care was rewarding, I found developing effective policies could have a larger impact on patient outcomes.â€ť
The desire to hone his ability to develop policies for impact is what brought Matt to Penn, which he explains is â€śunique from other public policy programs, with a focus on social problems that are directly related to the public health problems I am interested in.â€ť Pennâ€™s interdisciplinary environment was also a draw: â€śThe collaboration of nurses, providers, and social workers, led to improved health outcomes for our patients. The MSSP program is out of the School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2) and the MPH program out of the Perelman School of Medicine, allow me to continue working alongside future social workers and physicians. Working at LDI has only expanded my interdisciplinary network to include researchers, health economists, and policy experts. These cross-disciplinary collaborations are essential for there to be systematic changes in health policy.â€ť
Mattâ€™s interests within behavioral health have continued to evolve. He originally saw the opioid epidemic as a personal tragedy, but once he came to Philadelphia, he started to see it instead as a public health crisisâ€“ a view which he sees as harmfully uncommon. â€śFor centuries, substance use has been seen as a moral failure and addressed as a criminal justice issue,â€ť but â€ś[t]he systemic failures that led to the opioid epidemic and the inability of our healthcare system to adequately address it, often stem from opioid use disorder not being identified as a chronic disease.â€ť While studying at Penn, Matt got the chance to dive in and make an immediate impact on this issue.
The first step was in the Penn Public Policy Challenge competition, which Mattâ€™s team won. His team proposed â€śto expand prescription take-back and utilize the text message infrastructure of pharmacies to notify patients to dispose of their unused medications.â€ť The experience of doing the Public Policy Challenge led Matt to pursue work with the Leonard Davis Institute (LDI) and the Center for Health Economics of Treatment Interventions for Substance Use Disorder, HCV, and HIV (CHERISH), â€śwhere I now get the opportunity to work with leading policy researchers on the opioid epidemic.â€ť At the same time, Matt has sought to take action beyond Pennâ€™s borders. â€śI reached out to assist in the cityâ€™s opioid task force and after a lengthy conversation, I was assigned to the Data Analysis and Sharing subcommittee,â€ť Matt explains. â€śI had the opportunity to work directly with Philadelphiaâ€™s leaders in opioid policy. We discussed new methods to share data across city agencies, developed an evaluation plan, and made a recommendation for real-time monitoring of drug overdoses.â€ť
Though Matt has left the Army and now focuses on issues that cut across the larger population, his interest in helping veterans is undimmed. Not only is Matt a Pat Tillman Scholar, but he is the Philadelphia Regional Field Captain for the Pat Tillman Foundation and organizes community service events and ensure the Scholars in the region stay up to date with each otherâ€™s work. Additionally, Matt co-found Action Tank with a group of Philadelphia veterans based on their shared interest in continued service and strong personal networks. They aimed to improve the social conditions of the Philadelphia community. Their initial focus, not coincidentally, was the opioid crisis. â€śWe have provided hundreds of hours of community service to neighborhoods most impacted by the epidemic and contributed to regional opioid policy discussions. Action Tank is about breaking down political gridlock through evidence-based policy. As the Policy Director, I meet with policymakers from both political parties. I am reaching across the aisle to advise a gubernatorial campaign develop its opioid policies. These major issues transcend partisan politics.â€ť
So whatâ€™s next? Matt plans to pursue a doctorate in Public Health, in order to develop leadership, analytical, and communication skills to become a senior leader in the field. As he explains it, this wonâ€™t be much of a departure from his work as a nurse: â€śNurses often have to communicate complex medical conditions to patients, and I see myself in a similar role as the liaison between researchers and policy makers. Ultimately, I want to help key decision makers use evidence to develop and implement public health policy, along with using available evidence to innovate new policy ideas.â€ť