One of the biggest lessons I learned during my time at Brandeis is to challenge myself beyond what I believe I’m capable of. I think this applies to my classes, making friends, joining clubs, and connecting with professors and other adults on campus. In high school, I was often content to do the bare minimum I needed to do well and school was never all that exciting to me. Transitioning to college, I realized that every experience is only as powerful as you make it out to be. During my time at Brandeis, I came to understand that I have the ability to bring positive meaning into my life through the challenges that I push myself to complete.
I think that this has really applied to my internship with the National Consumers League thus far. I’ve helped on countless projects that I never would have otherwise and have learned so much more about public health than I anticipated. Every new request from my supervisor has been a new challenge for me and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I turn my work into her. Recently, my supervisor, Nissa, was out of town over the long weekend in July. Usually, on Mondays, we have a staff call where we share what each department is doing during the week and what they want to highlight for the upcoming work week. Nissa usually reads these on the staff call as I listen in the background. While she was away, she asked me to share the health team highlights for her on the call. I was really nervous accepting the request since I’d never really spoken on the staff call before and most of them don’t know who I am. I spent the whole weekend anxiously waiting for her to send me the highlights to copy and paste into the company document, and then double and triple checked that everything was in the right place. With the support of the assistant to the executive director, Adrienne, I had everything prepared and ready to go. The staff call went very smoothly and everyone complimented how well I did! Even though this isn’t really a big deal, just reading words off of my computer screen, I still felt really happy that I could help Nissa while she was on vacation and introduce myself in a positive way to the entire staff.
The work that NCL does is challenging, to say the least. The health department has a unique position right now because of the COVID pandemic, so there are a lot more nuanced problems than there would usually be. The issues that we focus on, especially vaccine hesitancy, medication adherence, and health-related fraud are intensely amplified by the present conditions and lack of guidance from the current administration. We also just started working on how the opioid epidemic is impacted by COVID, which has proven to be a challenge too. Instead of doing the bare minimum for these problems, I know that now more than ever I need to push myself as much as possible to ensure that these issues are given attention by the public, government, and other NGOs. I need to do my best to support NCL in any way possible and encourage myself to stay focused. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the sheer weight of these problems, but I also know how critical it is that they’re paid attention to. With so many different areas that need work, it can be hard to feel motivated to keep at it. For me, this is the biggest challenge. I’m excited to push myself during the last two weeks of my internship and do everything I can to ensure that the health department is getting the most up-to-date research, statistics, and information possible. I’m looking forward to what the next few weeks bring!
Since early June, I have been working with the Health Policy department at the National Consumers League. NCL aims to “protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad” through a variety of programs and branches. I work with the department on a variety of issues, especially related right now to COVID-19. We’ve been working on several different projects surrounding vaccine hesitancy and opioid usage during the pandemic, among others. I chose to work with this particular section of NCL because I believe that right now, health and health care should be a priority of every American and every American government official. The current pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s become obvious that the people most impacted by the coronavirus are Black and BIPOC communities. The COVID-19 issue is a racial issue, a health issue, an economic issue, and ultimately a social justice issue. It appears that health and health care have not been made a priority by the U.S. government, so it’s important to have groups like NCL that are looking out for consumers and their best interests at this time.
I’ve been working with NCL for almost a month now. In this time, I’ve written a blog on vaccine hesitancy and the unique challenge of COVID-19, done research on health-related issues that NCL is working on, and have assisted in multiple Zoom webinars either hosted by NCL or including remarks by NCL’s executive director, Sally Greenberg. I also helped in the steering committee that determined the winners of NCL’s “Script your future” challenge, who will be announced in the next couple of weeks!
Through this work, I’ve come to learn the way that the National Consumer’s League addresses the issues that they prioritize. For example, when it comes to vaccine hesitancy, NCL submits comments to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, who will then submit their official comments to the CDC. This will inform both organizations what NCL thinks about the impending coronavirus vaccine, and how they should approach immunization. NCL’s opinions are important since they directly voice the concerns and prioritizes of consumers around the nation.
Over the course of the next month, I’d like to take on as much work as possible to help NCL further their goals. Since the government directly controls the “victories” in this particular area (health and health care), celebrations can be few and far between. I would like to help my department be as best informed about these issues as possible. My next area of research will be on state reopenings and their subsequent spikes in cases. We’ll be tracking three states in particular, and looking at how their case spikes are leading to more shutdowns. To me, these small steps mean ensuring that NCL has all of the tools necessary to ensure that the American public is well informed about the virus and all of its implications. I think the biggest “victory” would be to see another aid package pushed through the government, and a safe and effective vaccine developed. These are obviously huge goals that would be huge accomplishments, but I believe that with bipartisan support and prioritization of the health of the American people, they would eventually be possible.