Solving Health Care Challenges Through Policy and Action

Authored By: wells438 03/14/2024

Evan Doyle standing in front of USquare at Onward event.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the University of Minnesota Rochester’s first graduating class. Evan Doyle, M.S. in public health is one of the inaugural class graduates of UMR’s Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) class of 2013. While the current enrollment has blossomed into nearly 1,000 students in both undergraduate and graduate programs, it all started with one class and one program that paved the way for those to come.

Doyle’s path to UMR started with an unscheduled drop-in. He had applied to the University of Minnesota and, at the time, they had a program where applicants could choose to have their application shared with all U of M campuses. As he and his dad were on their way to visit University of Minnesota Duluth, their route took them through Rochester. On a whim, Doyle called UMR and asked if they could stop in for an impromptu campus tour. “They were ecstatic,” he recalls. “It was still a construction zone. I had to really use my imagination.” During the tour, he learned more about the unique structure planned for UMR. “I loved the innovative, team-focused learning model and approach to a crossdisciplinary, integrated curriculum. As I was primarily there to learn, I was not necessarily looking for the stereotypical college experience. I was really focused and motivated and took education seriously. The fact that UMR was new was not a deterrent, rather I saw a ton of opportunity in being part of the group that got to define and shape the university’s future.” This spur-of-the-moment visit to Rochester sparked interest. “We still went to visit Duluth and other campuses, but every tour after that I found myself comparing against Rochester in my mind.” Knowing that he was interested in medicine, learning about UMR’s planned collaboration with Mayo Clinic and focus on health sciences solidified Doyle’s decision.


For Doyle, the challenges that came with being in the first class became opportunities to grow. With leadership experience in his past as student body president of his high school, he naturally gravitated to the leadership roles in this new system. “Being the first class, there was nothing there. UMR needed a constitution, student body president and other leadership roles to be created and then filled” — in other words, UMR needed to set up the structures that established universities have. Where some might have been paralyzed by the ambiguity of it all, Doyle leaned in, stepping into leadership roles throughout his time at UMR, becoming Student Body President, Student Senator, Student Activities Committee Chair and more. While not part of the BSHS curriculum, these leadership experiences became foundations for the career Doyle would build and cemented friendships with his classmates. “Alumni from those first years have become lifelong friends.”

The robust relationships and collaborations that UMR has today with institutions, faculty, researchers and medical professionals didn’t happen overnight. “In some ways, it was really fueled by the first few cohorts. Institutional connections weren’t formal at first, but had to be built from the ground up, not from the top down,” Doyle explains. Those first UMR classes put in the work “knocking on doors, finding researchers, forming those relationships and creating the appetite for collaboration.” Researchers and departments at Mayo Clinic were impressed with the dedicated students coming from UMR and were thrilled to keep working with them year after year.


While it could be said that for any educational institution a student will get out of it what they put into it, UMR’s innovative learning model is designed to make learning dynamic, not passive. In contrast to a more traditional lecture format, UMR classes are structured with a report-back model. “The professor isn’t standing in front of the class lecturing. They are engaging with and amongst students. Debating, questioning, encouraging critical thinking and solving problems. You couldn’t get by learning on a surface level. You had to engage. Even the classroom layout encourages interaction between students and faculty.” Doyle had the opportunity to see the real difference when taking classes later in his educational journey at other institutions. “I took some classes in a standard lecture hall — it was jarring. The professor’s expectation was straight rote memorization from old powerpoints and didactic lectures. It was so different from my experience at UMR.”

Another innovative component of the UMR program was the required Capstone experience, which turned into a career-solidifying milestone for Doyle. “I had done volunteer work in Kenya, and that experience made me really want to travel and learn about health systems around the world. I was interested in complex systems and wanted other reference points from other countries. When I designed my Capstone, I chose to include a qualitative study on barriers in access to health care in Ecuador. I received funding through the University, and just blindly reached out to organizations on the ground, and found one to work with me.”

He then returned to the United States to pursue internships focused on public health. “Internships allowed me to explore different levels of the health sector.” He spent three months in New York City working with the Latino Commission on AIDS, a nonprofit that provides community-based HIV prevention and treatment services. “That experience gave me more of a flavor of how data and insights drive local health programming.” He also worked as an Intern in Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank in New York City. There, he was present for very high level roundtable discussions about a wide variety of global health topics: “H1N1 influenza, antimicrobial resistance, biosecurity threats and vaccine resistance. I was a very small cog that got to listen in on these big meetings. This solidified my interest in global health broadly.

As Doyle considered his future after graduation, UMR’s student success coaches offered guidance and leveraged connections to help him pursue his burgeoning interest in global health. “I decided I didn’t want to go to medical school, but I knew I wanted to go to grad school after first working for a couple of years. The student success coaches knew the CEO for a small consulting company in St. Paul, and connected us. I worked there for two years after graduation building hard skills in public health research.”


Doyle would go on to attend the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he completed his Master of Science in public health. From there, he began working for the Clinton Health Access Initiative. This role took him to the rural, agricultural country of Eswatini in Southern Africa, where he worked to implement the country’s universal health coverage policy by scaling access to basic health care services. After a year and a half, Doyle was promoted to Regional Manager of the Global HIV Prevention program. He spent two years working in South Africa and neighboring countries, increasing access to oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications. The successes they saw in these countries provided the framework to implement similar programs in many countries in Africa and Asia with high rates of HIV transmission. Working collaboratively — a skill that was emphasized early on at UMR — with governments, health care providers, funders and other key players has been essential to the success of the projects Doyle has led. “When we started, there were only a few hundred people receiving PrEP. At the end of two years we were up to hundreds of thousands, and we were on track to scale access in nearly every clinic in the country.” Lives changed and lives saved.

From there, Doyle began his current role as Policy Advisor and Strategist for the Global Fund in Geneva, Switzerland — the largest multilateral funding institution in global health — which focuses on fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in over 120 countries around the world. Reflecting on his role in all of these large-scale programs, Doyle says, “A big part of my job is listening and translating people’s needs into something that can be funded and put into action. I can push harder because I’m pushing for other’s needs, not my own.” Looking to the future, Doyle’s work with the Global Fund will focus on designing strategies for how to mitigate, adapt and respond to climate change’s impact on global health — a challenge on a scale unlike any we have seen.

As a member of the inaugural class, Doyle believes UMR’s vision of transformation in higher education through innovations that empower our graduates to solve the grand health challenges of the 21st century certainly had an impact on his education and career path. He has focused his life and career on solving those grand health challenges globally. Doyle readily asserts that his experiences at UMR helped prepare him for the future. In Rochester for the inaugural class’s 10 year reunion in June, Doyle and fellow alumni had the opportunity to tour campus. “I love to see the developments that UMR has undergone. This tour showed me that it hasn’t lost its core values, which is really special.” UMR looks forward to the growth that will happen in the next 10 years, and remains steadfastly dedicated to its core values. 

Read more stories from the Fall 2023 Alumni Magazine: The Kettle