Dan LaVallee, director of Government & Business Relations for Government Programs, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Plan (UPMCHP), Pittsburgh
After earning a master’s degree in health policy, LaVallee, 31, joined America’s Health Insurance Plans in 2010. He then became one of the youngest Democratic nominees for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district in 2014 at age 26. When he didn’t win his bid, he joined UPMCHP in 2015. His work focuses on underserved populations such as the Medicaid population, the LGBTQ community, the homeless, people with unstable housing, and individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, among others.
MHE: Why did you choose your profession?
LaVallee: Ever since I was a child, making an impact for those in need was important to me. I chose this profession to be able to have the greatest impact on the largest number of people—especially the underserved, disadvantaged, and those left behind.
MHE: What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?
LaVallee: I learned that it is possible to create innovative models to serve underserved and at-risk populations that can then be driven to scale and leveraged. This became clear to me through leading the development of UPMCHP’s permanent supportive housing program into a scalable model for how health plans can partner with housing support providers to reduce homelessness and improve health outcomes for an underserved population.
MHE: What change would you like to see in healthcare in the next five to 10 years?
LaVallee: In order to provide the best and most effective health outcomes, we need to continue to make progress in realizing that each patient— especially those who are often left out of the healthcare system—is a person of worth and dignity. We cannot assume that they will appropriately access the healthcare system if they don’t feel listened to and understood. Hearing directly from the individual—such as the woman who is homeless or the transgender man looking for non-judgmental and competent care—is the only way to effectuate the meaningful change we seek.
MHE: If you could sit down to dinner with anyone involved in healthcare who would it be?
LaVallee: I would love to have dinner with Lee Bass, MD, my childhood pediatrician. He was the type of doctor who treated his patients not just as patients, but as people that he valued. After my brother died when I was six years old, Bass, came to my house with a gift of a toy truck and played on the floor with me—not as a child who needed treatment, but as a child who was grieving my brother. I would love to thank and tell him that I am trying to follow in his footsteps.