Earlier this summer we welcomed our summer policy & advocacy interns to our DC office. Lewis and Maria are part of the bleeding disorders community and were chosen to participate in a 8 week internship because of their leadership qualities and interest in the field of policy and advocacy. Throughout the summer, Lewis and Maria participated in:
- Legislative, policy and advocacy training
- Build communication and media skills
- Attended hearings and Capitol Hill office visits
- Visited Executive Branch Agencies
- Worked on projects with APLUS and PPTA
- Authored a specific policy work paper or issue brief
- Supported HFA staff on activities including: Dear Addy, Action Alerts, Social Media outreach
- Worked with their local HFA member organization
Thank you to Baxter for giving HFA a grant to make this internship possible. Learn more by reading their first-hand experiences:
1). What was your favorite part of your summer at HFA?
Lewis:Â My favorite part of the summer at HFA was being a member of a small but highly effective policy and advocacy team. I always felt like my input was valued and saw how my workÂ hadÂ a direct impact on the community. A highlight for me was attending congressional hearings where I could see how the bleeding disorders community fits into current legislation and bring this information back to HFA to ensure they stay up to date with trends in health policy.
Maria:Â I loved learning about the latest developments in healthcare policy while attending briefings, lunch meetings and hearings on the Hill. I also really enjoyed touring the Plasma Center where I Â learned about issues of safety in Â plasma collection.
2). What was the most surprising thing you learned over the summer?
Lewis: HFA’s extensive network of professional relationships surprised and impressed me. Over the last 20 years HFA has built up an excellent reputation in Washington. By maintaining working relationships with congressional offices, federal agencies and related nonprofits,Â HFA is able to provide extensive services and influence policy in a big way.
Maria:Â I learned about the process of donating plasma and how complicated this process is in order to insure that the products that come from plasma are safe.
3). What was the most important thing you learned?
Lewis: This summer reinforced the power of effective communication. Health policy is a very broad topic and even when focusing on a specific disease like Hemophilia it is easy to get lost in the details. Powerful messages are delivered by identifying the crucial information and understanding the audience. I was able to develop my oral and written communication skills through this internship by participating in meetings with congressional staffers, writing issue summaries and blog posts like this one.
Maria:Â The most important thing I learned was how incredibly critical it is that advocates listen to the to the community, the actual patients that HFA represents. Consumers must be heard when working through the public policies that impact their treatment and well being.
4). What advice do you have for others interested in applying for this internship?
Lewis: My advice to anyone interested in applying for this internship would be to gain some familiarity with current trends in federal health policy in order to hit the ground running in Washington. Policy and advocacy work requires careful study from many perspectives such as sociology, statistics, and medical science so a strong background in a related area would make you a better candidate for any health policy related job.
Maria:Â Ask questions. Get to know the professionals in the office and learn what they do. Be useful. HFA has an amazing and dedicated team and each member plays a unique role. That’s worth learning about and supporting. Â HFA has many different dimensions that go beyond advocacy. HFA staff and volunteers work together to make sure that consumer’s Â needs are heard and respected.
5). How has this internship helped you to become a stronger advocate and leader?Â
Lewis: This internship offered a lot of freedom with high professional expectations. Helping prepare and run the successful Hill Day was a great opportunity to practice my leadership and advocacy together working with HFA’s team and our community member advocates at meetings with federal legislative offices throughout the day.
Maria:Â I have become more informed about the intricate issues pertaining to hemophilia health policy and therefore have become much more confident as an advocate.
Â 6). How are you going to stay involved in the bleeding disorders community?
Lewis: I will stay involved in the bleeding disorders community by continuing to participate in HFA’s Blood Brotherhood Program and volunteering at Camp High Hopes. I have always tried to connect my experience with the bleeding disorders community with my academic pursuits and hope toÂ takeÂ policy analysis and genomics coursesÂ in collegeÂ in orderÂ to gain a better understanding of the issues facing our community.
Maria:Â I am hoping to become a full time health policy advocate or at the very least to support my local chapter by volunteering with different projects.