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Azia Harris-Martin

Consultant, Kaiser Permanente,
Oakland, Calif.



B.S.E. – (Materials Science and Engineering, with a minor in Business Administration at Ross School of Public Health Health Policy and Management), University of Michigan, 2017
M.P.H. – Emory University, 2019

Employment history

Consultant, Kaiser Permanente- first job post bachelor’s and master’s degrees - Develop recommendations from quantitative and qualitative analysis for various improvement projects. Currently working on a $10M project that has the opportunity to improve patient care through a coordinated/ integrated care model.

Honors and Awards

Hugh G Rumler Prize (U-M) - 2017
Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship - 2019

How did your MSE degree prepare you for your career?

My time at Michigan in the MSE Department was invaluable. Many people often are surprised that I got my undergraduate degree in materials science. The first question is usually, “What is that?,” followed by, “How does that apply to what you are doing now?” Honestly, I see more similarities in healthcare operations and materials science than I did in materials science lab. As materials scientists we combine engineering, physics and chemistry principles to solve real-world problems. We investigate how materials perform and why they sometimes fail. By understanding the structure of matter, from atomic scale to millimeter scale, we invent new ways to make things work. That is what I am currently doing! I am studying the healthcare system and how the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to the chaos in the field. Using my problem-solving skills, I aim to understand how each part of the system works from the smallest level to the largest. After understanding the scope of the problem, similar to in a lab, I analyze the data and begin to figure out potential solutions - also looking at why some systems work and some fail to get a better perspective. I have the ability to use each of the Michigan Engineering Plus Competencies almost every day. Technical Leadership - looking at the data and leading through tips that I learned through the book "The Thermodynamics of Leadership" Creativity & Innovation - Brainstorming different solutions through various problems and using the resources/ constraints given. Entrepreneurial Mindset - staying ahead of the curve by understanding the industry and thinking about what is needed. Intercultural Intelligence - looking around the table to understand who is at the table and who isn't to think holistically about all the stakeholders my project may affect. Collaborative Spirit- working out issues with colleagues and looking at what other healthcare organizations have done and their best practices for making things work and also learning from them about what didn't work and why. Social and Environmental Responsibilities- remembering that the customers come first and within any project I work on the patients are the most important. Effective Communication- being personable and talking to as many levels of leadership as possible to understand the system.

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

My favorite class was the two capstone courses (MSE 489 and MSE 480). During my first capstone class in the Fall of 2016, my group decided to focus on the Flint Water Crisis where we designed a potential filtration system that would enable the state to dynamically monitor the water that is distributed to individuals and posted on a public database in real time to provide better transparency. This project inspired me to start a career in public health and I began to apply to MPH programs with the intention of going into Health Policy and potentially start a career in the EPA to hold engineers more accountable for the failing American infrastructure. The second semester of our capstone project I joined a project that focused on chronic disease care. This project allowed me to get more insight on the American health system and I sought to use everything I learned in Materials Science to pivot into healthcare administration. Outside of classes I was heavily involved with The Dean of Students Advisory Board, The National Society of Black Engineers, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Nu Chapter, M-STEM, The Bicentennial Student Advisory Committee, Lead Scholars Program, and had the opportunity to start a mentoring organization on campus, The Pretty Brown Girls. My most invaluable experiences were studying abroad to Kumasi, Ghana (2013) and Chaing Mai, Thailand (2015). 

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

Look at your 4-5 years at Michigan as a world of unlimited possibilities. Talk to as many professors as possible about the things that they are researching, stay up to date about trends in the field, try as many things as possible - join an acapella group, go to as many sports games (not only football), enjoy the all-nighters in the Dude, and keep pushing forward. Your passions are rooted in your past; therefore, try to expose yourself to as many things as possible in the short amount of time you're in Ann Arbor. But, most of all, enjoy the chicken broccoli bake at Bursley!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Moving to a new state there is so much to explore. I pride myself in taking pictures of my dog Zeus. I also love trying to restaurants. I am also heavily involved with my sorority and The American College of Health Executives. Last, but not least, meeting up with fellow Wolverines to cheer on Michigan football, basketball, or baseball.

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