Contact My SSW Intranet

Main menu

Suzanne Gelber Rinaldo, PhD ’81, Health Care Consultant

I n her role as a health care policy researcher and consultant, Suzanne Gelber Rinaldo, managing partner of The Avisa Group, frequently draws on the skills and relationships that she cultivated during her time at the University of Michigan. Although she had taken only two previous sociology courses, Gelber Rinaldo found graduate sociology courses a welcome change from her English PhD coursework. After applying to U-M SSW’s PhD program, she received a fellowship to work with (now Professor Emerita) Rosemary Sarri, in whom she found an inspiring mentor and role model, and gained valuable research experience.

Gelber Rinaldo accepted several university teaching assignments and then served under New York City Mayor Edward Koch in the Health and Hospitals Corporation, where she put her social work policy and administration training to rigorous use. “It was interesting after my academic experiences to work in policy formation. I had occasion to work on New York City’s first AIDS task force,” she recalls, “and experienced how policy and administration build on efforts of practitioners. My policy focus extends beyond practical social work to the formation of care systems.”

Gelber Rinaldo’s growing expertise in health care policy formation led to a series of positions in insurance, managed care, and benefits consulting. She managed the first Participating Provider Option (PPO) plan for New York State employees and their dependents, developed mental health/substance abuse practitioner networks for employers of large companies, and, with a team, spearheaded mental health and substance abuse benefit plan development for Fortune 500 companies. “The work was intellectually stimulating,” she says. “But I decided I could have better control of my schedule if I took the plunge and started my own firm.” She founded The Avisa Group in 1995 in Berkeley, California, and has not looked back.

“It was challenging at first, because I had to do a little of everything,” Gelber Rinaldo says. But she recruited her husband— a health economist—and re-oriented Avisa’s focus more towards the public sector. Now The Avisa Group principals and affiliates work on numerous public and public-private sector consulting projects.

In addition to the constructive, beneficial nature of The Avisa Group’s projects, Gelber Rinaldo thrives on the network of relationships established during her time at the University of Michigan that has become part of a larger professional network. “I gained not only skills,” she explains, “but relationships. I was fortunate to be part of a committed and capable cohort with great social work and social science faculty.”

—Elizabeth Leimbach Zambone is a freelance editor and writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Contact Us Press escape to close