Student Feedback

Below you will find the descriptions of students’ experiences in working with me. I have gone out of my way to encourage candid feedback, and I have not altered their descriptions. I hope that you find this helpful.

Fed Nelson was a BYU undergraduate student at BYU, and is now a medical student at USUHS.
Working with Dr. Swanson was by far the most rewarding and beneficial work/research experience I had during my time as an undergrad. Chad provides flexibility for creative thought and gives students ownership over their projects, allowing for personal growth. I worked with Chad for about 1.5 years and had the opportunity to write a grant, produce 3 short videos, create a series of white papers, write blog posts, and be one of two primary reviewers in a systematic review on Complex Adaptive Systems.
Working with Chad can also be frustrating and requires diligence and hard work. Nearly half of the projects we wanted to work on were either not started or not finished due to lack of time. However, I feel that I was able to learn to prioritize and was given the green light to be proactive with the projects we worked on, and we were able to achieve some great things.
Be proactive and communicate effectively and working with Dr. Swanson will prove incredibly beneficial. The opportunities I had as an intern for Chad are very rare for undergraduates. Take advantage.

Varnee Murugan, recent graduate of Yale’s MPH program:

“Working with Chad has been an absolute pleasure for me. He is truly motivated, responsive, provides constructive feedback and has a great attitude. If you are early in your academic career however, you may be looking to work more with someone who has more field or research experience. Chad is not terribly well established in the healthcare research field, and there are drawbacks to this, but to compensate he does often collaborate with others who bring a wealth experience to the table. To be honest, it’s sometimes a much better experience to work with someone like Chad rather than an experienced professional who is unresponsive and won’t take you seriously. If you’re ready to make a large and significant contribution to a project, and are willing to work and think independently, I highly recommend working with Chad.”

TJ Christensen, BYU undergraduate student:

“Chad finds the time necessary to help you with whatever self-directed project you want to do. He’ll never shut down an idea because he thinks it’s dumb. In fact, I think he pretty much tries anything that he thinks might be worthwhile. It doesn’t all work, but you know what they say about throwing enough stuff at a wall or something. . . . I’ve really appreciated his experimentation willingness–it makes him really easy to work with.”

Bryce Johnson, BYU undergraduate student:

“Dr. Swanson is not your typical research mentor. Working with him is often uncomfortable because he expects you to do a great deal of learning and analysis on your own, but if you’re committed to your goals, that discomfort will lead you to do and learn far more than you would otherwise. His relatively recent interest in academia means that much of you will be doing will be foreign to him too, and you will have to find a lot out on your own. He is, however, a great motivator and will push you to do your best work. If he knows he can count on you, he’ll take interest in your success and do everything he can to help you accomplish what you set out to do. If you’re looking for a typical research assistantship where you help a professor with his or her research under their direction, don’t work with Chad. If, however, you’re super motivated, and eager to dive into your own project head first, he’s the guy you want.”

Andrey Ostrovky, medical student at Boston University, and Health Systems Action Network student leader:

“I’ve worked with chad through the Health Systems Action Network. He is a great collaborator and an expert at bringing people from disparate backgrounds to work together on a project. I look forward to many more projects together. If you’re interested in getting mentorship, writing a paper, or changing the world, Chad’s your guy!”

Kelsey Perry, recent BYU MPH grad, and my research assistant for several months:

“This past year I worked with Dr. Swanson as his research assistant, which mainly entailed mentoring undergraduate research, grant applications, preparing background research, etc. Dr. Swanson always went out of his way to ask me what I would like to work on, which I appreciated; normally as an RA, you just do whatever your mentor wants you to do! However Dr. Swanson always takes a keen interest in supporting students in their <i>own</i> interests. Dr. Swanson is also pretty hands off– he gave me basic guidance and then let me do my own work, checking in from time to time to make sure it was going okay. I prefer that kind of working relationship because it gives me the space to learn on my own. I would add that working with Dr. Swanson is definitely more collaborative than the distinct I’m-the-teacher-you’re-the-student sort of relationship that many professors seem to prefer. Dr. Swanson treats you like a colleague and friend, while still providing awesome mentorship. I enjoyed working with him very much, and appreciated the opportunity to learn about a subject area that I wasn’t well schooled in!”

And some anonymous feedback:

“Working with Dr. Swanson and in Systems Thinking has really changed the way I look at health problems. It has given me a great opportunity to think freely and critically and has really provided a springboard to my involvement in global health.”
“Working with chad has often unclear day to day expectations, but the big picture is always clear, to move forward. This allows students to take control and ownership of ideas and projects, which encourages increasing our knowledge and confidence in the  complex subject matter!”

“Dr. Swanson seems to live and breathe the health systems approach, and his expertise alongside his commitment is refreshing and inspiring. 

In the beginning, systems thinking and other related tools seemed unattainable. It looked good on paper and I really wanted to believe in it, but it seemed so unrealistic in practice. Dr. Swanson transformed these concepts into actual implementations and approaches that are not only realistic and attainable, but necessary. Now I understand that trying to address public health problems without systems thinking is just foolish.”

“Working with Dr. Swanson was my first experience in academic research. Though I’m no longer active in public health, working with him really helped me focus my undergraduate years and understand what it means (and what it requires!) to contribute to the world’s knowledge base. I’ll always appreciate Dr. Swanson’s friendly but no-trainingwheels brand of mentorship.”
“Learning about systems thinking has changed the way I view healthcare and how I will practice medicine. Chad has been a great mentor–he pushes you while helping you to achieve more than you thought you could.”
“Working with you has been and is a life-changing experience. While challenging, I have enjoyed my time and become passionate about improving health systems.”
“Systems thinking is vitally important to improving our health care system today, but it can also be hard to understand. Working with Dr. Swanson helped me see how to apply systems thinking and was very rewarding in helping me develop my own talents and skills.”
“Working with Dr. Swanson was one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. Although the concepts of the research are difficult to grasp and the work can be quite frustrating, if you’re self-directed and want to learn about theories that can be applied later in your career to really make a difference in the world, this is some of the most important work you can get involved in! Through working with Dr. Swanson, I was able to make better sense of some of the world’s problems in regards to health, and I connected with influential individuals in the realm of global health from across the country. I truly believe that my research with Dr. Swanson and these global health visionaries was one of the leading factors of my acceptance into the top graduate program in the country for my field. If you’re self-motivated and want to learn how to solve some of the world’s health problems, get involved with health systems thinking and health systems strengthening!”
“Systems Thinking IS the way of thinking that will lead us to solutions to the worlds greatest health problems. Now we just need to get more people thinking this way and applying it to what they do. When this happens, I believe that we will begin to see rapid, impacful and sustainable change for the better.”
¨I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to work with Dr. Swanson and increase my understanding of systems thinking and its applications to health.  It was not a typical undergraduate experience-hard, frustrating at times, but worth it. Not only did I intellectually grow but working with him and other professionals opened up other opportunities that I´ve already benefited from and that I´m sure will help me in the future. I will use my foundation of systems thinking and experiences for decades to come.¨
“Learning about systems thinking has changed how I view health care and helped to clarify what I want to accomplish in medicine.”
“Health system strengthening makes such sense, and Dr. Swanson’s energy for the topic is super contagious. I would recommend learning as much as you can about the topic from Dr. Swanson while you have the chance.”
“Working with Dr. Swanson has challenged me to learn more efficiently and effectively. It has been largely beneficial to my education as a whole.”


  1. Brandi Harless said,

    Just recently I worked on co-authoring a paper with Dr. Swanson. Eight authors were included in the remote collaboration of this effort which has now been published in the PLoS Medicine Journal. Because our schedules were all different and sometimes overwhelmed, it was a very challenging task to pull together a group of people who were able to commit to the ongoing back and forth that this required. Dr. Swanson was very patient with this process, something that I think contributed greatly to our success. His dedication to the accomplishment of this paper was truly inspiring. A great man to work with.

  2. Carter Newey said,

    I worked with Chad Swanson in the development of a research project in the Mexico Field Study program to investigate barriers to healthcare in rural Mexico. The overall feeling I had working with him was that I had to “have my game on” before talking to him about my project. It was a bit intimidating at first approaching him with my ideas when he knew so much more about healthcare than I did, but that feeling just served to push me that much harder to develop a solid project. Chad was really helpful, sharing insights based on his past experiences in healthcare research, something that made him especially a good fit for my project and interests. Oftentimes I felt like my time spent with him talking about my project was a bit rushed, but that was expected since we both have busy schedules. If you’re serious about a project or mentoring opportunity, Dr. Swanson is a good person to work with. If you’re not a self-motivated person willing to do your own preparation, however, he may not be the best fit.

  3. Bradford Riley said,

    I have found working with Dr. Swanson to be a very enriching experience. Most recently I have been shadowing him at work. The nature of the work in the ER is interesting and exciting and he does a good job of explaining what he is doing and what it means. He is also very good at viewing issues in the ER from a systems perspective, which is particularly valuable to me as a public health student. When I shadow with Dr. Swanson I feel included in what he is doing. Sometimes when things get busy you are left alone in the background, but I think that’s the nature of the work.

    I have also worked with Dr. Swanson in an academic setting. There have been times when I felt that we didn’t communicate very well, like we were on different wavelengths. Most of the time things went well, but sometimes I had a hard time understanding what was expected of me. Nonetheless, I’ve found Dr. Swanson to be a great mentor, especially for public health students thinking about going into the medical field.

  4. Peter Barnes said,

    Dr. Swanson is one of the most passionate people I know, especially when it comes to systems thinking and health care reform. I worked with Dr. Swanson for over a year while in my undergraduate at BYU and the experience and knowledge I gained during that time have been very valuable as I have recently begun my first year of medical school.

    I really liked that from the start, Dr. Swanson was transparent and he let me set my goals and level of involvement. Dr. Swanson has big ideas and great vision, and sometimes it took me a while to “catch on”. However, when I put in the necessary time and effort, I felt like I was able to contribute to the conference we we were preparing for, which was rewarding for me. I also felt like Dr. Swanson was interested in my life and that he made a sincere effort to help me achieve my goals and also be a friend. He was definitely my biggest mentor and role model in college.

    I would highly recommend working with Dr. Swanson, if you are committed to following through and interested in systems thinking and health care reform.

  5. Jenessa Halliday said,

    I worked with Dr. Swanson during my last semester at BYU and for about one year after college—collaborating on projects, research, and papers. No matter how long the work took, it was always a true pleasure thanks to Dr. Swanson’s passion and genuine friendship. He is truly invested in helping students learn, develop their abilities, and reach for new goals. While I can honestly say that working with Dr. Swanson requires diligence and vision, I can also promise that the time spent will be worth the effort and will bring more rewards that you might anticipate. I know that my work with Dr. Swanson has greatly helped me both academically and professionally and I am grateful to have benefited from such a wonderful mentor. If you are willing to push yourself and care about public health, health care reform, or even tackling complex problems, then Dr. Swanson can and will teach you important principles and skills.

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