June 09, 2021
Alumni Spotlight: Alex Pomerantz
By Bill Brink
To experience the aspect of Carnegie Mellon University that Alex Pomerantz loved most, you’d have to go to the College of Fine Arts parking lot in the middle of the night to find Pomerantz and his Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers building their booth for Carnival.
“Not everybody is passionate about the same thing, but everybody is passionate about something, and I think that’s what makes CMU really special,” said Pomerantz, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in Biological Sciences and an additional major in International Relations and Politics. “People are really passionate at Carnegie Mellon about what they love, and people will stay up all night doing the things that they love, not because they feel they have to, but because they want to.”
Pomerantz is on track to earn both his MD from Harvard Medical School and his Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School in 2022. His goal is to work in pediatric emergency medicine. His passion lies in the intersection of health and policy, and it stemmed from his childhood in New Jersey – he grew up in a few different communities, one of which was not like the others.
“There were a lot of inefficiencies that I felt were created by poor policy, and I felt like one of the areas where things were lacking was in the health and social policy spheres,” Pomerantz said. “I started getting interested in what could be done in terms of drug policy, and that interest in drug policy sprung into a larger interest in health reform as a whole.”
Pomerantz knew he would play golf in college, and Carnegie Mellon was one of the stops on his recruiting trail. CMU competes in Division III, and the golf coaches understood that the priority is academics, but the Tartan golf team is one of the best in the country.
“One of the things that drew me was hearing how much success all the guys on the team had academically,” Pomerantz said. “The coaches had no qualms about taking on students who were in computer science or engineering or premed, which are notoriously hard majors to balance with athletics.”
In the classroom, Pomerantz enjoyed his Judicial Politics and Behavior course with Dr. Geoffrey McGovern – “I just absolutely loved it. … It was helpful to learn the legal side of policy, the judicial side of policy, because it is an important part and not a lot of policy makers have an understanding” – and became good friends with Dr. Jason D’Antonio, the Director of Carnegie Mellon’s Health Professions Program. After Pomerantz heard about medical student mentorship program at Harvard and a bio major friend learned of one the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, they decided to form one at Carnegie Mellon.
“We an intake form and match students to somebody by hand, with Dr. D’Antonio’s input,” Pomerantz said. “It’s slowly grown into something a lot bigger. Now we appoint a new coordinator every year who’s a little bit closer in age to the current applicants. We have started introducing topic-oriented workshops.
In the summer before Pomerantz’s senior year at CMU, he interned with the Allegheny County Health Department. He worked with the director of public policy, learning from her about the intricacies of marijuana policy and how his interests overlapped several aspects of social policy. Before beginning graduate school in the fall of 2017, he interned in the office of Alan Silvia, a Representative in the Massachusetts State Legislature.
“It was really fascinating for me to attend hearings, go to committee meetings, and just explore all there is to offer at the state level in terms of policy,” Pomerantz said. “I was able to dive pretty deeply into a lot of my social policy interest areas, specifically drug policy and Medicaid.”
Pomerantz is part of a five-person cohort of students obtaining their MD and MPP simultaneously. He just completed a year at the Kennedy School and returned to the medical school in early June. The tools gained from the IPS statistics requirements have helped him interpret primary literature in both medicine and policy. Carnegie Mellon also taught him to manage his time.
As enthralling as campus life can be, Pomerantz advised students to explore Pittsburgh during their time at CMU.
“I think that exploring off-campus opportunities were some of my most meaningful experiences, having the ability to work with other people who are Pittsburgh natives and give back to the community,” he said. “It’s easy to feel like if it’s not offered at CMU, that’s all there is, I guess I can’t do it, but you can carve out your own path off campus.”