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David Pope

David Pope is a doctoral student in health policy and management within the Gillings School of Global Public Health. He is also the chief operating officer of Scotland Health Care System in Laurinburg, N.C. He served as a Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps from 2005-2009, and deployed to Al Anbar, Iraq with Second Battalion, Second Marines.

What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

UNC offers the perfect mix of world-class academics and “roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty” application of what is learned. At the Gillings School of Global Public Health, I learn from, and with, some of the world’s best. Then I get to take that knowledge and apply it to real-world problems right here in rural North Carolina.

Tell us about your research.

My current research explores how rural areas can better provide community-based mental health services to prevent patients from being involuntarily committed and held for long periods of time in hospital emergency rooms. Holding patients in hospital emergency rooms is not the best way to provide care, and it reduces the capacity of the emergency room to treat other patients. Sometimes patients who have been involuntarily committed wait days or weeks for appropriate placement. We’ve got to find a better way.

What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in graduate school?

There are too many to list, and the application varies depending on your environment, but here are a few: Know yourself and seek improvement. Leaders are responsible for everything their teams do or fail to do. Find the 70% solution. Have a bias for action. Go to the point of friction. Leaders eat last. Set the example.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?

In the short-term, I want to be a better leader and problem-solver within my organization as we provide safe, high-quality, compassionate health care to our community in a sustainable way. In the long-term, I don’t want North Carolinians’ ZIP codes to predict their health status. It’s going to take a team of committed people from a wide range of disciplines to ensure that rural North Carolina has access to appropriate health services. I want to be part of that team.

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