Earlier this summer we welcomed our summer policy and governmental relations interns to our D.C. office. Alexandra and Catherine are part of the bleeding disorders community and were chosen to participate in a 10-week internship because of their leadership qualities and interest in the field of policy and advocacy. Throughout the summer, Alexandra and Catherine:
- Gained legislative, policy and advocacy training
- Attended hearings and Capitol Hill office visits
- Worked on Federal and State projects;
- Toured a plasma donation center; and
- Assisted other staff members with additional projects
Thank you, Shire, and CSL Behring for their unrestricted advocacy grant to make these internships possible. Please read on to learn more about Alexandra and Catherine’s experiences this summer in D.C.
What was your favorite part of your summer at HFA?
Alexandra:Â One of my duties of the internship was I had to write a research paper based on a topic of choice. As I have mentioned in prior blog posts, I decided to focus on the healthcare crisis in Puerto Rico prior to and post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Undoubtedly, one of my favorite parts of the summer was being able to research a topic that I’m so passionate about. I was also able to attend a committee hearing on economic growth in Puerto Rico on the Hill, where I had the opportunity to hear the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico speak about hurricane relief on the island. Through this internship, I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of Puerto Rico by acquiring tangible information on the Hill, while also conducting extensive research.
Catherine:Â I have really enjoyed living and working in Washington, D.C. There is always something to do, no matter what you are passionate about. For those of us who are especially interested in the role of social structures in health care, this is a great place to be!
What was the most surprising thing you learned over the summer?
Alexandra:Â Prior to going to the plasma center, I was unaware of how many plasma donations are needed to treat hemophilia patients per year. It takes about 1,200 donations to treat just one hemophilic per year. I think more individuals within our community and non-community members should be aware of this number to further emphasize the importance of plasma donations for our community.
Catherine:Â When I applied for the internship, one of my priorities was to learn more about the life cycle of policy. I now realize how slow the process can be, as legislators, constituents, and relevant experts conduct a thorough conversation about proposed policy. Washington is a busy city, so this conversation takes place in small chunks – hearings, briefings, office meetings – over a long period of time. Alexa and I had the chance to sit in on a number of these discussions – most of which started before our arrival and will continue well past the end of our internship!
Â What was the most important thing you learned over the summer?
Alexandra:Â I learned that it is so important for constituents to advocate with their legislators about issues that are of importance to them. Most of the staffers on the Hill, senators, and representatives that we had the opportunity of meeting with were so receptive and cared about the stories of their constituents. I think it is important for community members to be aware of how important their stories and voices are on the Hill. A lot of change can happen when individuals are consistent and express their opinions on how various policies can have an impact on their lives. In fact, during the Fly-In it was so fascinating to see some staffers on the Hill remember stories and some of the patients that had previously advocated for themselves and the community. Our voices matter!
Catherine: If you pursue what you are truly passionate about, you will find a way to make that your profession.
How has this internship helped you to become a stronger advocate and leader?
Alexandra:Â This internship has allowed me to push myself beyond my comfort zone. My knowledge of health care policy was limited to my personal experiences. However, I was able to research, learn from others, and gain knowledge from my coworkers at HFA, patients, and others in the community. This internship has provided me with the tools necessary to continue being an advocate at a state and national level.
Catherine:Â The internship with HFA has given me opportunities to work on my public speaking skills and helped me to feel more informed and empowered as a representative of our entire community
How are you going to stay involved in the bleeding disorders community?Â
Alexandra: I hope to continue staying involved in advocacy efforts by attending future Patient Fly-Ins, HFA’s annual symposium, and events held for the bleeding disorders community. In addition, after discussing with my local chapter in New York, I will continue participating with their advocacy committee.
Catherine: While in Washington, I’ve learned that a combination of solid, reliable data and the stories of real people are the best way to demonstrate impact to legislators. As a social scientist, I will continue researching to change the lives of people with bleeding disorders for the better.