One of the biggest lessons I have learned and am continuing to learn about the world of work and social justice work overall is what it means to be an advocate. Advocacy can be defined in many different ways, but in general, it involves taking action to create change. Through my work with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, I have seen that truly successful advocacy goes beyond this step of just identifying these weaknesses and flaws in our systems. It involves championing them to change or be uprooted entirely.
In the time I have been with CMS, I have critiqued policies that do not allow for coverage of nearly enough patients, and pushed for new and improved technologies to be available to patients under Medicare. I have questioned outdated standards of care and encourage optimal coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. Though my tasks have been very detail-oriented and I focus on smaller aspects of access to quality care through recommending new technologies, my hope is that my work as an intern this summer will further my department’s mission to advise policy surrounding coverage and access to technologies to push for health equity within CMS and the U.S. health system as a whole.
One thing I wish I had known before I began my internship is that progress in many forms is often slow-moving. Although you can approach advocacy with gusto, true and sustainable change often takes longer than you realize. It is frustrating at times to want to see large scale changes in healthcare access reflected in policy and infrastructure changes, but not witnessing it due to things like bureaucracy, red tape, or even just the nature of change in the field overall. However, one of the most beneficial traits of someone entering the field of public health and working towards the pursuit of health equity is understanding the importance of stamina. To anyone else looking to pursue an internship or career in public health, I encourage you to think critically about the ways you can maintain your stamina in your work. Whether you accomplish this through acts of self care, or by setting boundaries in your professional life, maintaining stamina in your advocacy and not burning out when immense changes do not occur immediately is a key factor in ensuring that when the progress actually does occur, it is sustainable and will be upheld by the institution even after you are gone.
I have been honored to work with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Division of New Technologies this summer. My work this summer has taught me an incredible amount about how different subsections within Medicare work to optimize coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. All patients, whether they are Medicare beneficiaries or private beneficiaries, deserve access to the same promising technologies and interventions, and watching the DNT push for that by streamlining the approval of technologies under coverage has been a privilege to witness. I hope that my impact as an intern at Medicare will be one step out of many more to come to continue the important progress being made by the DNT towards a larger goal of health equity overall.