David Royal MS’10

After 10 years working as a neuroscientist, David Royal MS'10 decided it was time for a career change.

His search for a new career led him to the master’s of science program at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice (TDI) and—ultimately—to the U.S. Navy. Now he’s putting his TDI education to use every day in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he is deputy chief of operations for the Office of Command Surgeon with the NATO training mission in Afghanistan. He recently took a few moments out of his grueling schedule to explain his work helping hospitals transition from being Coalition-led to Afghan-led.

What brought you to The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice?

Before attending TDI, I was a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt’s Brain Institute. In 2009, I looked downrange and I decided that I was unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices and commitments to advance my career to the next level. That raised a number of questions for me, chief among them, if not neuroscience, then what? I wanted my work to have more immediate impact, and I wanted to work in a more dynamic environment. I surveyed my skillsets, and I married that list with my interests and settled on the generic-sounding “health-care management.” I spent months researching and comparing programs. What ultimately sold me on TDI was its reputation and the program’s one-year master’s program.

How has your education at TDI prepared you for your current role? It’s not an understatement to say that I draw upon everything learned while at TDI. You have to remember that Afghanistan’s health-care system is in its infancy. They had to start not that long ago from the ground floor. Everything I learned at TDI is applicable here. I use all of that experience every single day.

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