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Alumni Spotlight: Steve Ullmann

Steve Ullmann

Steve Ullmann, Ph.D., Economics

As an undergraduate student at University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Steve Ullmann knew he would continue his education and eventually build a career in economics, specifically in antitrust and regulatory theory. He had extensive conversations with faculty and mentors, during which he expressed his goals of studying at the graduate level, and they all replied with the same advice: Go to Michigan.

And go to Michigan, he did. What Steve didn’t know was that he would soon veer slightly off his chosen path, step outside his comfort zone, and go on to be a renowned leader in his field. During the first semester of his graduate career, Steve became a grader for Dr. Paul Feldstein, a faculty member who was pioneering a brand new field of health care economics. Steve, uncertain of his qualifications, took this role on with minor hesitation and sat in on the graduate-level course on the subject and graded papers and exams at night. Impressed with his immediate knack for such integrative subject matter, Dr. Feldstein offered Steve a position as a research assistant and later as a research associate, and so began his experience at the University of Michigan that ultimately led to what would be a long, successful career in health economics, management and policy. “The education and the mentoring I received was truly significant,” Dr. Ullmann said. “The professors took time to be with you, and you could study in the classroom and follow up with interpersonal interactions with faculty. It was an incredible experience.”

Immediately after completing his doctoral degree at U-M, Dr. Ullmann was offered positions with various noteworthy organizations, including consulting firms, the United States Congressional Budget Office, and the Federal Trade Commission. While consulting and government positions were intriguing, higher education was where his career would flourish. Dr. Ullmann was recruited by the University of Miami in their search for a health care economist, he accepted the position, and remains there to this day.

His career at the University of Miami has allowed him to experience academia and continue his research in a myriad of leadership roles. Dr. Ullmann moved through the ranks of professorship, spending time in departments of economics, management, health sector management and policy as well as in the School of Medicine. “The skills I learned at Michigan helped me excel as a professor and allowed the tenure process to come relatively easy to me.”

He then spent 16 years as the Vice Provost of the University of Miami, ten of which were also spent as the Dean of the Graduate School. After over a decade of long hours and plenty of responsibility, he seized the opportunity to move back into a faculty position where he currently serves as the department chair of the Health Sector Management and Policy Department, as well as the director of its corresponding center. In this role, he has created a presence for health care policy and economics in the School of Business Administration, including the development of an advisory board, an executive M.B.A. in the Health Sector Management and Policy Program, and the Business of Health Care Conference.

The Business of Health Care Conference is held each year as an opportunity for people to discuss current economic challenges surrounding health care. In its sixth year, registration was capped at 895 people, and attendees observed while such luminaries as former Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius and Donna E. Shalala and the President of the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Health Insurance Plans, discussed the impact of the 2016 election on health care.

Dr. Ullmann continues to share his findings outside of the academic setting. When news outlets like CNN, Fox Business, and Al Jazeera are looking for a professional commentator on health care economics and policy, Dr. Ullmann serves as one of their go-to experts. The United States currently has the world’s most expensive health care system, and Miami has the most expensive care in the nation, making the culmination of his knowledge most relevant.

Even as he shares his knowledge with the world, Dr. Ullmann keeps his U-M experience at the top of his mind. Looking back on his successes, Dr. Ullmann notes, “I would not be doing what I’m doing without support from Rackham or the University of Michigan. My career has gone so well as a direct result of my time there. I would never have imagined the offers I’ve gotten, becoming an administrator at a major university, or traveling the world.”

Now, as a faculty member with years of wisdom to offer, he finds himself offering advice to a variety of students every day. To current graduate students, he says to find a passion and go with it. “Enjoy what you’re doing, and everything else will fall into place, because you will excel at it. You have to take little risks. The train only goes by once, so you have to hop on.”

And to undergraduate students considering a graduate education, Dr. Ullmann often finds himself saying the words he once heard from his mentors: Go to Michigan. And oftentimes, they do.