I would like to think that my hoped-for experiences have become a reality. I’ve gotten to work on some really awesome projects during my time at NCL. Particularly successful and personally proud moments include researching Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy in favor of FDA approval, writing a letter to President Obama to request a food waste initiative executive order, researching renewal of PDUFA VI, prescription drug policies, and consumer attitudes towards the pharmaceutical drug industry. I think a disappointing experience was at the very beginning of my internship. I researched and worked on a blog post advocating for HPV vaccination but it never got posted. I assume it was because there was too much scientific jargon and not consumer friendly enough. Since then, I have gotten much better at changing up my tone to write more consumer friendly blogs to inform the public about the issues that consumers face every day. Some topics I blogged about were payday loans, Wall Street regulations, and the borrower defense to repayment rule. In terms of spreading consumer education, all the interns and staff members collectively reached our goal of creating enough questions for the annual LifeSmarts competition. I also had the fortunate opportunity to meet and network with influential people from health and consumer organizations.
This internship helped clarify my career interest in health policy. However, I realized that I really don’t enjoy sitting at a desk all day behind a computer so perhaps a job in research is not for me. While I am still interested in policy work, particularly in regards to addressing health disparities, I am now also considering a path towards becoming a health care provider, perhaps a nurse practitioner. I prefer the nursing model more than the medical model because it looks at health more holistically.
I would advise prospective interns to be patient when it comes to implementing public policy reform. Sometimes things don’t always go your way but you just have overlook those moments that haven’t been necessarily successful and still move forward in your work. Policy reform requires a lot of time and it can be years before we see any real changes going into effect, especially with what often seems like bureaucratic ineptitude. In addition, be proactive and step out of your comfort zone, whether that is taking on new projects outside your field or attending networking events. There is always a possibility that you may enjoy something outside your direct field of work.
NCL allowed me to explore both interests in a way that I didn’t think was possible, especially at a consumer advocacy organization rather than a health organization such as CDC or NIH. Lastly, the location itself in Washington D.C. presents so many wonderful opportunities to attend various panel discussions on public health issues such as women’s reproductive health, HPV, DMD, Zika virus, global health infrastructure and many other issues. These events great networking opportunities for interns looking to enter this field of public health and health policy work. My time at NCL has been a great learning experience and I am very grateful to all the staff members who made my experience such a rewarding one.