Final reflections

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NCL’s executive director Sally Greenberg, fellow intern Hannah and I visited the National Museum of American History to see NCL’s exhibit.

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.

Elese Chen

NCL's exhibit at the Museum of American History
NCL’s exhibit at the Museum of American History
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Washington Monument
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Sunset view at Key Bridge by Georgetown

 

 

Halfway there!

"Chocolate Thursday" Outing - Every Thursday all the interns go to a chocolate store around the corner. We go to this specific shop because its products are fair trade.
“Chocolate Thursday” Outing – Every Thursday all the interns go to a chocolate store around the corner. We go to this specific shop because its products are fair trade.
Lincoln Memorial
Bernice (a close friend and fellow Brandeis student) visited me one weekend. This is us in front of the Lincoln Memorial

It’s hard to believe that my time at NCL is halfway over. I’ve grown accustomed to my daily routine and it feels second nature to hop on the metro and arrive at the office to begin my day. Washington D.C. is flooded with a new population of interns and young professionals, especially during the summer. It is exciting to be experiencing the city during this time of the year. The other interns and I have become good friends and supportive colleagues. We help each other with projects and provide insightful feedback. My colleagues have impressive backgrounds and they are extremely helpful in that they are always willing to offer me advice or assistance in any way that they can. The other interns and staff members are older and more experienced than I am so it is insightful to be exposed to the different roles that they play within the organization and the manner in which they each complete their tasks.
My week at National Consumer’s League begins with a staff meeting every Monday. Everyone gathers in the conference room to discuss their agenda for the remaining week. We announce any new projects and assign people to work on them throughout the week. We also do a “current events” of recent consumer issues in the news. Then we say all the meetings we will be attending at Capitol Hill to determine which congressional members or senators we would be in contact with to advocate for a certain bill or law. I usually head over to my cubicle/workspace and begin on my assignment for the day. We have set deadlines for our projects so I try to gather all my research and data early in the process. I think the most stimulating aspects of my work are in the beginning of the week when I start a new research assignment or project. For example, this week, my assignments were to research consumers’ perceptions of drug prices and the pharmaceutical industry in general. I also really enjoy attending meetings on the Hill because I get to witness the legislative process and the more proactive efforts on NCL’s part. Other times, attending panel discussions are also really insightful and relevant to the work that I am doing. World of Work has differed from academic life in that there has been a lot more freedom and self-initiative involved in this experience. In a classroom setting, you are often given instructions and assignments. However, this internship experience is really what you make of it. Even if a project is not necessarily under my department, I will ask to be a part of it if it seems interesting. The head department supervisors are great about letting interns be a part of various projects and they really make the effort to cater to our interests.
Something that I’ve learned at my organization is how to write consumer friendly blog posts. I think this is an important skill that will help me in the future because it’s one thing when experts are knowledgeable but it is also really important that the general public is well-informed and educated in consumer issues. I am also constantly honing my research, analytic and writing skills. These are skills that are transferrable to many jobs, especially if I want to pursue a career in public policy. I am still practicing my networking skills. This past week, I attended an intern lunch at Google’s DC office. Google offers a public policy fellowship and one of the interns at NCL, Mike, is a Google Fellow. The whole event was very exciting and I had the fortunate opportunity to speak to people who work for public interest. Understanding the path they took to reach their current career positions was extremely helpful since I’m still not quite sure what my future plans are after graduation, specifically if I want to begin working immediately, attend graduate school or possibly attend law school.

Elese Chen

My first week at NCL

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NCL’s Office (1701 K St.)

My first week interning at the National Consumer’s League in Washington, D.C. has been rather eventful. NCL is America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization and has been representing consumers and workers since 1899. Some of the issues that NCL addresses include child labor, food safety, medication adherence and internet fraud. There are multiple departments within the organization that run their own programs such as Fraud.org, LifeSmarts, Child Labor Coalition, and Script Your Future.

Recently, I wrote a blog post for NCL’s website. I wrote about the HPV vaccine and its potential to reduce the growing number of cases of cervical cancer. I am also reviewing NCL’s website and applicants for the Script Your Future medication adherence competition.

17 & K Street (Washington D.C.)
17 & K Street (Washington D.C.)

Every intern is responsible for drafting content for the NCL’s annual LifeSmarts competition. LifeSmarts is a program that spreads consumer education especially for teenagers and young adults. The topics that the questions cover are expansive and range from health and safety to personal finances.

In addition, I am doing research on multiple projects. The projects I have been working on have been really interesting and informative. The National Center for Health Research reached out to NCL and requested that we sign on to their letter to FDA’s Commissioner Califf and Dr. Woodcock that stated their stance against FDA approval of Sarepta’s new drug, eteplirsen. It is designed to treat Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a rare disease but debilitating disease. I researched this topic so that NCL could make an informed decision as to whether or not we would sign in support of the letter. However, after extensive research, Sally Greenberg, NCL’s executive director and my supervisor, decided to not sign the letter. While the drug has yet to be perfected, NCL believes that the drug provides patients and their families some hope in treating this fatal disease.

I am also researching the differences in the ways male and female students approach competition. This is to improve the LifeSmarts competition for there are changes we could make to help girls be more successful in this competitive environment.

Lastly, another project I have been working on is a food waste initiative. NCL would like to write a letter to President Obama asking for his consideration of an Executive Order to address the issue of food waste. This would make it mandatory for all federal agencies to have a food waste plan.

I am also grateful that I received the opportunity to attend multiple events. I went to the library of congress with my supervisor, and attended a panel and lunch called “Digital & Data Privacy: Civil Rights Solutions for Good.” The panelists discussed ways in which the civil rights community can protect consumer privacy but still allow digital inclusion online. I also attended The Hill’s briefing, “Pathways to Prevention: A Policy Discussion on Research & Treatments for Alzheimer’s”. The panel held a great discussion on the policies that can help combat Alzheimer’s with the goal of curing it by 2025. Featured speakers included Senator Shelley Capito and Senator Ed Markey. Tomorrow, I will be attending a breakfast briefing: “Challenges in the Global Health Arena” with Senator Bob Corker as the speaker.

This past week has been both exciting and rewarding. I look forward to continuing these projects and hope to make some real impact on policies surrounding NCL’s issues and expand my own consumer knowledge over the course of this summer.

Elese Chen