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Mon, Oct 23

Health Policy Career Advice from the Private Sector

Duke alum Andrew Barnhill returned to campus to discuss his career path and current responsibilities as the Director of Federal Policy for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a multinational pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare giant whose drug portfolio includes Advair and Flovent.

At GSK, Barnhill provides healthcare policy thought leadership and strategy to advance business processes. His tasks change from day-to-day but may begin with conversations with public officials discussing a particular piece of legislation that may alter the company’s business processes. Barnhill then translates his discussion internally to his team at GSK, who must craft a plan of action in response to the legislation. Soon after, the company releases its stance on the policy issue to officials on Capitol Hill.

Though Barnhill’s education and work experiences are diverse in scope–he holds a JD, an MA of Divinity, and a BA in Political Science and Rhetoric–he attributes much of his success to his time spent on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer. He offered advice on starting a career path in health policy, recommending experiences working with legislators as first steps. Barnhill suggested entry-level policy analyst roles for Master’s students interested in careers at the intersection of science and policy. Specifically, in the pharmaceutical industry, a policy analyst identifies implications of legislative policy and projects outcomes affecting business processes. Barnhill also advised students interested in medical careers to consider work in medical affairs policy after some time practicing in the field of medicine.

Regardless of what career path a person chooses, “[work in the] private sector has to push the boundaries of government,” said Barnhill, as he described healthcare as “fundamentally human” and “imperfect”. His discussion was informative and provided insight into the private sector, and characterized his work in the pharmaceutical industry as challenged with the need to balance the interests of patients, an individual company, and the industry at large.


Chelsey Pitts

Chelsey PittsChelsey is a student in the Duke Bioethics & Science Policy Graduate Program. She is interested in studying bioethics and healthcare policy as it relates to healthcare disparities in gender, religious and ethnic minority communities, and socio-economically disadvantaged areas.