Kristen Free is a Pittsburgh native with a BPhil in rehabilitation science and a BS in psychology from Pitt. She was drawn to Pitt Public Health for graduate school partly because she was already a Pitt student – she liked Pitt as an undergraduate and so she wanted to stay. The MHA program was also a strong draw. “I really liked the program because there was a lot of emphasis on evidence-based literature and practice,” said Free.
While she was here, she also completed the global health certificate, focusing some of her school work in the global realm. She traveled to Peru with a handful of other members of the Health Policy and Management Association student group and an organization called MedLife, bringing basic medical interventions into low income areas. The students set up clinics and helped doctors – even building a set of stairs to help with infrastructure.
Today, she works at the Allegheny Health Network as an analyst on the strategic analytics team and really enjoys touching on different areas of the organization. “I tell stories with data. We make quick, easy to interpret dashboards that allow people to quickly consume data without being overwhelming, so that way leadership is making data-based decisions.”
Free isn’t sure what might come next in her career. “I always say I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. From every experience, you change a little bit. I started out in undergrad wanting to be a vet, so that’s very different from what I’m doing now.” But she does know that she has the support of the Dawn Gideon Foundation network. She was the first Dawn Gideon Scholar, and so she got to give her own input into what would be helpful for the scholars and today she serves on the board. The program they’ve built provides scholars with an invaluable network of mentors that are ready to act as sounding boards and that the scholars can get to know, feel comfortable reaching out for advice.
“I think that Dawn left an incredible legacy. Every time I mention the foundation, I’m running into people who personally knew Dawn and every single person I run into has a great story about her and had great interactions with her. And through all of these stories, I’m not only learning through the resources that the foundation has given me, but also through Dawn herself, which is really cool. Especially working at AHN and her connections there – it’s kind of cool to see that.”
Free is secretary of the Greyhound Health Initiative and recently bought a house built in 1888, so projects around the house have taken over her life. “I’m learning to do stuff that I had no idea…lots of YouTube. You can learn anything!”