October 28, 2020

Rosalyn Maben-Feaster, MD, MPH: Leading positive change

Health system science holds promise for creating impactful change in today's health care system.

Professor stands in front of class with presentation on screen

Dr. Rosalyn Maben-Feaster serves as the director of the Health Systems Science curriculum at the Medical School and is an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as the associate director of the Women's Health Division at Michigan Medicine. She has long history at the University of Michigan, earning a BS ('05) in Cellular and Molecular Biology, an MD ('10), and an MPH ('10) in Health Management and Policy.

After graduation, Dr. Maben-Feaster worked in a private OB-GYN practice for a few years before returning to her academic home. Here, she shares how her training helped prepare her for a career in academic medicine, the role getting a dual degree has played in allowing her to pursue her passions, and the importance of teaching health systems science to our future physicians.

Within the Medical School, you’re currently serving as the director of Health Systems Science. Could you explain your role and what appealed to you about taking this role on in 2018?

In my role as the Director of Health Systems Science I am tasked with ensuring that all University of Michigan Medical School graduates will practice medicine in a way that integrates basic, clinical and health systems science to lead positive change for patients and the population as a whole via developing an integrated Health Systems Science curricular thread that spans all four years.

I was excited about the opportunity to take this role as I have always been passionate about considering the factors outside of the pathophysiology of diseases that impact health outcomes. For this reason I sought an MPH degree while I was in medical school here at Michigan. During my time at the School of Public Health I learned much about the behavioral, environmental and social determinants that impact health outcomes. Throughout my career I have worked to integrate this training into my own practice. However, in my new role as the Director of Health Systems Science I get to help others think about how these things can be integrated into the practice of medicine and potentially impact the care of many more patients.

What is health systems science, how has it evolved and why is that important?

Health Systems Science or HSS is the study of how health care is delivered, how health care professionals work together to deliver that care, and how the health care system can improve health. These are not new concepts to the practice of medicine given the number of examples that suggest a need for health care reform. However, the idea of combining all the content domains has recently gained more attention since the American Medical Association published the first edition of its textbook entitled Health Systems Science in 2017. Many medical schools across the country have been working to integrate this content more robustly into their curriculums. It is our hope that by integrating this third pillar of medical education we will increase the likelihood of being able to create impactful change for our health care system.

You’re also an alum of the medical school and completed your residency in OB-GYN at Michigan Medicine. What are some of your favorite memories?

There are so many things that were interesting or fun about medical school, but my favorite memories are really about the lifelong friends I have made and the adventures we had. Many of the people that I sat with in my M1 lectures are still good friends of mine today.

How did you medical school training help prepare you for residency?

My training experience at Michigan was exceptional. It was incredible to be able to learn from national experts during the preclinical phase and also in the clinical phase. In addition, the ability to do clinical rotations at other facilities across the state and even traveling to Ghana for an OB-GYN rotation was incredible. This well-rounded experience really helped prepare me to thrive in residency and in my career.

How does it feel to be on faculty now, and what do you like about working with medical students?

It has been a great experience to be at UMMS as a faculty member now. It is truly an honor and privilege to be able to help train the future leaders in medicine, and I love the passion for learning, innovation and advancement of the field of medicine that is built into the fabric of this institution. 

You also completed a dual degree while in med school. Could you share the ways in which that has impacted your career?

I sought an MPH because I wanted to learn more about things outside of medical care that impact health. I was able to get a glimpse of a different side of approaching health through this experience and also learned a lot about organizational theory and the business of medicine as my focus was health management and policy.

You spent a couple years after residency working in community hospitals before returning to the university. What was it that drew you back to academic medicine?

I worked in a private OB-GYN practice after residency, which was a really incredible experience. I was able to be closer to my parents and care for patients near where I grew up, which was great. However, I really missed the innovation and hunger for new knowledge that comes with being at an academic institution. I also missed the opportunity to interact with learners as at my community practice we did not work with students or with residents. Working with learners really helps to keep you on your toes as they are always asking questions to better understand how things work which in turn benefits your own knowledge and also your patients' experiences as well.

What do you like to do outside of the med school?

Outside of my work at the medical school, I enjoy traveling (although not during the pandemic), spending time with my daughters and husband, shopping and cooking.

What advice do you have for prospective students considering the University of Michigan Medical School?

There are so many great opportunities to take advantage of while you are here. Try to make the most out of your time here by really exploring your interests and also taking the time to learn about things you may not have thought about previously. This is your time to really hone your skills and your interests so take advantage of it.