Pardee RAND Graduate School Alumni Awards

For more than fifty years, the Pardee RAND Graduate School has trained global leaders. With our rigorous classroom training and unique real-world learning opportunities, our students are ready to help solve the world’s most complex problems immediately upon graduation. In recognition of all that they do, we are pleased to present the 2024 alumni awards.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have shown leadership, passion, and impact throughout their careers. Our Rising Star Award honors early career professionals who have made significant contributions within the decade following their Pardee RAND graduation.

2024 Distinguished Alumni

Cheryl Damberg

Cheryl Damberg (cohort '89) is distinguished chair in Health Care Payment Policy, director of the RAND Center of Excellence on Health System Performance, and a principal senior economist at RAND. Her 1996 dissertation simulated the economic incidence of an employer health insurance mandate on the earnings of workers, evaluating the distributional impact of the mandate provisions contained in the 1993 Health Security Act proposed by the Clinton administration.

Her research explores the impact of strategies to drive cost and quality improvements in health care and understanding how providers are redesigning health care delivery in response to new payment models and increased accountability. She has worked to strengthen the design of value-based payment schemes, with particular focus on addressing disparities through improving measurement by accounting for social risk factors and building measures of health equity. Her work also explores changes in the structure of health care markets, with a focus on health care consolidation and its impacts on cost and quality.

In 2021, Damberg was appointed a MedPAC commissioner. She is an international expert in pay for performance and value-based payment reforms and has advised Congress, federal agencies, the UK National Health Service, and the governments of Germany and South Korea on embedding performance-based incentives into provider payments schemes. She has testified before Congress regarding how to revise Medicare physician payments to include value-based payment elements and on the effects of health care consolidation.

Damberg directs the RAND Center of Excellence on Health System Performance which characterizes and studies health systems, explores the effects of consolidation, and identifies the attributes of health systems associated with high performance. She also leads a team working with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services to generate Medicare Advantage Star Ratings.

She previously served as director of research for the Pacific Business Group on Health, where she led early efforts to measure provider quality of care and to make transparent comparative performance results to consumers. She also served as a senior consultant to Fortune 100 firms for the MEDSTAT Group and as a research fellow in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She holds a Ph.D. in public policy from the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an M.P.H from the University of Michigan.

Kristi Raube

Kristi Raube (cohort '87) is the South Africa country director for the U.S. Peace Corps. Her 1992 dissertation explored whether a community-based in-home intervention program can change the level of social support and improve health status in an older population. Since graduating, she spent the first 26 years of her career in academia and the last six in international development.

Raube started her academic career on the faculty of the University of Chicago, where she focused on domestic and international health systems strengthening and maternal child health. In addition, she was the Associate Director of the Chicago Health Policy Research Council, which funded research and conducted briefings on regional health policy issues. Kristi also served as a Fellow with Leadership Greater Chicago, the region’s premier civic leadership development organization.

After seven years at the University of Chicago, she joined the faculty of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, where she spent her career teaching and researching global health and poverty issues. She was a key architect of programs that combined the study of business with the broader goals of healthcare access, poverty reduction, and social justice. In her role as the founding Executive Director at Berkeley-Haas’s Institute for Business & Social Impact, she developed efficient, effective, and innovative business solutions to environmental and social challenges through its constituent centers and programs, including the Center for Responsible Business, the Center for Social Sector Leadership, and the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership. During her academic career, Dr. Raube worked in 56 countries and traveled to nearly 80, conducting research in global health, consulting with governments and universities, and leading Berkeley-Haas’s applied innovation international coursework. She was honored to receive a Fulbright Fellowship that allowed her to work in Cambodia.

After retiring from UC Berkeley in December 2017, Raube became a Peace Corps Country Director in the Africa Region. In that role, she is the primary representative of the agency to the host government and other in-country stakeholders, as well as a member of the US Embassy leadership team. Kristi plans, directs, and oversees all aspects of strategy, policy, organizational, and program objectives for Peace Corps in the country. Initially, Kristi was the Country Director of Peace Corps Liberia, one of the poorest countries on the continent, where she led the evacuation of all Volunteers in response to the global pandemic. In August 2020, she moved to Peace Corps Kenya to lead the re-opening of the post after the program suspension following the Nairobi Westgate Mall terrorism attack in 2013. Most recently, in August 2023, she assumed the role of Peace Corps Country Director in South Africa.

Raube served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Togo after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with a B.A. in Biology and before returning to graduate school. In addition to her Ph.D. from Pardee RAND, she holds a Master of Public Health degree from University of California, Los Angeles.

Neeraj Sood

Kay Sullivan

Neeraj Sood (cohort '99) is a professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy with joint appointments at the USC Keck School of Medicine and USC Marshall School of Business. He directs USC's COVID Initiative and is a senior fellow at the USC Schaeffer Center. His 2003 dissertation analyzed the use of viatical settlements, a financial vehicle that allows life insurance policyholders to convert previously nonliquid policies into cash at a discount. Prior to joining USC, he was a senior economist at RAND and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Sood's research focuses on pharmaceutical markets, health insurance, economics of innovation, infectious diseases, Medicare, health care markets and global health. He has published over 180 papers in peer-reviewed journals in economics, medicine, and policy, including Science, JAMA, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Health Economics, Health Affairs, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and Health Services Research. His research has been supported by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF) and other prominent funders. His work has been featured in media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist, U.S. News and World Report, and Scientific American.

Sood holds the lifetime honorary title of National Associate of the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine, recognizing his extraordinary service to national research on matters of science, engineering and medicine. He was a finalist for the 16th and 21st annual National Institute for Health Care Management Health Care Research Award, recognizing outstanding research in health policy. He was also the 2009 recipient of the Eugene Garfield Economic Impact Prize, recognizing outstanding research demonstrating how medical research impacts the economy. Sood has been on the editorial boards of the Journal of Health Economics, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and Health Services Research. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research – the nation’s premier economic research organization, a board member of the American Society of Health Economists, a member of the board of advisors for the Congressional Budget Office, and scholar in residence at Amazon.

Robert Otto Valdez

Robert Otto Valdez (cohort '80) is director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). His 1986 dissertation, part of the historic RAND Health Insurance Experiment, examined the effects of cost sharing on the health of children. He has devoted his academic and government career to health promotion, disease prevention, and efforts to improve public health.

Valdez was appointed AHRQ's Director in February 2022. He was previously the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Professor Emeritus of Family & Community Medicine and Economics at the University of New Mexico (UNM). He received his Ph.D. from the Pardee RAND Graduate School specializing in studies of healthcare financing and quality of medical care. At the University of Michigan School of Public Health, he was awarded a master’s degree in Health Policy & Administration. At Harvard University, Valdez studied in the Department of History and Science specializing in Latin American history and Biochemistry.

In 2008, Valdez was the Founding Executive Director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at UNM. He previously served as founding Dean at the Drexel University School of Public Health. From 1985 through 1999, he was Professor of Health Services at the UCLA School of Public Health and directed the health services doctoral studies program, the MBA/MPH program in collaboration with the UCLA Anderson School of Business, and served as associate director of the Chicano Studies Research Center.

Valdez started his career as the lead child health researcher for the RAND Health Insurance Experiment. Internationally recognized as an expert in health services research, the U.S. healthcare system, and health policy analysis, he has led numerous global healthcare initiatives with the Pan American Health Organization and the University of California. His health promotion and disease prevention work with Univision Communications Corporation, “Salud es Vida: ¡Enterate!” was recognized with journalism’s prestigious Peabody Award.

From 1993 through 1997, Valdez served at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health (Public Health Service) and simultaneously as Director of Interagency Health Policy (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

Prior to joining DHHS in 1993, he served as a Special Senior Advisor to the White House on healthcare reform. In 1998, he served as Special Senior Advisor to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. His public service includes serving as Chairman of the New Mexico Community Foundation, Chairman of the American Hospital Association Foster G McGaw Prize Committee, and Chairman of the Public Health Institute, one of the nation’s largest non-profit public health agencies serving communities across California and internationally.

2024 Rising Star

Andrew Cady

Andrew Cady

Major Andrew Cady (cohort '14) is chief of the Enterprise Performance Branch within the Office of Enterprise Analysis, Systems Engineering Directorate, National Reconnaissance Office. For his dissertation he developed empirically derived measures of direct fire behaviors from U.S. Army National Training Center (NTC) data and demonstrated how these measures can be used to support acquisition decisions based on the output of simulation-based modeling. We are proud to honor him with the 2023 Pardee RAND Rising Star Award.

At the NRO, Cady leads a nine-member team that assesses the effectiveness of the planned future overhead intelligence enterprise.

Cady earned his commission after graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2014. He has since served in a variety of leadership and staff roles as an operations research analyst. Immediately after commissioning, he enrolled at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, where he later graduated with a doctorate in policy analysis. He served on staff at Headquarters, Air Mobility Command, where he was responsible for global tanker and airlift capacity and demand forecasting. He deployed as a member of the CENTCOM Deployment and Distribution Operations Center in Kuwait, where he assessed the effectiveness of the CENTCOM joint logistics enterprise. Prior to his current position, he served as director of operations in the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, directing the execution of over $500 million in basic science research grants annually.

Cady has received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Air Force Recognition Ribbon as 2019 Air Force Combat Analyst of the Year. He was promoted to Major in October 2023.