The opportunity to spend a semester in Washington D.C. allowed me to experience a city full of political activity, historical monuments, and forward thinking. As a science major in particular, participating in the UCDC program provided an invaluable chance to network with individuals who specialize in subjects that vary from my everyday academic experience. I have formed strong friendships with classmates from different majors – political science, legal studies, economics, and media studies just to name a few – and expand my knowledge regarding current events and the nation’s political environment much beyond my previous familiarity. My courses, which included a general research seminar and a course on lobbying and monetary influences in Washington, helped me delve into the inner workings of the U.S. political system and better understand where I fit into the political arena as a health specialist. All in all, my time in Washington D.C. has help shaped my perspective of how science and medicine fits into the nation’s larger political spectrum.
While attending the UCDC program, I had the pleasure of interning at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a nonpartisan advisory organization that acts as a branch of the National Academy of Sciences and leads the nation in public policy recommendations in health care, medicine, and the most pressing public health issues. For example, the IOM published all the recommendations for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! nutrition program. I personally worked at the Roundtable for Value and Science-Driven Health Care, a board that included top health care officials from across the nation that specialized in the improving patient accessibility to physician care and incorporating science-backed medical practices into the national health network. As the only intern at the Roundtable, I was treated much like a full-time staff member and had the opportunity to participate in novel clinical research and reports that helped shape national health recommendations. Additionally, I had the chance to network with top players in the nation’s healthcare system from both the public and private sectors, attend workshops and seminars that discussed best practices and strategies to address the latest issues, and help author important discussion papers published by the National Academies Press. Overall, my unique position at the IOM was one of a kind and exposed me to public policy work that would otherwise be impossible to experience outside of Washington D.C.
At my internship, my everyday activities included conducting research and compiling data, setting up interviews and processing transcripts, editing and proofreading text for press releases and discussion papers, and creating contact grids for dissemination of completed material. After contributing to two important discussion papers on patient and family engagement, I was listed as a contributing author on both publications. The two papers, Shared Decision-Making Strategies for Best Care: Patient Decision Aids and Patients and Health Care Teams: Forging Effective Partnerships, can be found online at the URLs listed below following this report. Both of these papers focused on incorporating patients into the care delivery process and empowering them to make better decisions for themselves and their loved ones. Furthermore, I contributed to an additional publication to be released in 2015, a compendium of resources for Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs) aiming to help developing organizations get more involved in patient engagement and establish sustainable practices.
In addition to working on patient incorporation, I also participated in a fast-track project that pertained to Veteran’s Affairs and wait times. This assignment originated from a Congressional mandate to find better practices to reduce patient wait times when the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs was found to have antiquated scheduling practices and inadequate means of addressing patient concerns. In addition to launching an investigation into the VA system, Congress asked the IOM to release a recommendation on how to improve scheduling efficiency. As a result, we organized a consensus study group with leaders from top health care institutions across the nation and a public workshop to investigate leading scheduling strategies, such as third next available appointments (TNAA) and same-day scheduling. This allowed us to author a discussion paper and formal recommendation to better address the nation’s growing demand for timely appointments.
Although these were the main projects I was involved in at the IOM, I was also involved in many other side projects such as the study of clinical effectiveness research and how academic health centers are incorporation systems administration into their curriculums. I played a central role in organizing interviews of academic health center heads with researchers Dr. Nancy Kass and Dr. Stephanie Morain from the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and compiled data obtained from various teaching hospitals across the nation. I was also involved in research and the fact-checking process to ensure that our reports have accurate and complete data and statistics. My internship was an entirely positive experience that helped expand my horizons and shape my career path to come.
My semester in Washington D.C. was an unforgettable experience that taught me much about health care policy and its implementation in the nation’s capital. I was able to observe recommendations affecting public policy from a first-hand perspective and develop my writing, networking, and communication skills. This opportunity would not have been possible without the UCDC Science Policy Fellowship. I would like to thank everyone at UC San Diego for their work in helping students interested in science policy travel to Washington D.C. to pursue their goals.
URLs for Papers