Friday, April 20, 2012

Guest Commentary: Connecting to a sense of purpose in Washington

Pavan Ganapathiraju

When I first joined the one-year accelerated Master of Public Health program at Jefferson, I walked in with a variety of interests. Most students you ask about me will say emergency preparedness. However, I have always been interested in health policy.

After enrolling in PBH 509: Public Health Policy and Advocacy, our class was notified of the Annual Health Education Advocacy Summit sponsored by the Coalition of National Health Education Organizations and Partner Organizations that was held in Washington, DC. The agenda for the summit included training on advocacy, discussing priority public health issues, and meeting with Congressional representatives to lobby/advocate for such issues. After hearing about it, I knew I had to take advantage of this experience; it would be a great opportunity to develop new skill sets in advocating and networking.

When I returned from the conference, I was beyond happy. Not only did I get to see the Capitol of our great country for the first time, but I had the pleasure of talking to the offices of senators and representatives from my home state of Illinois. I was skeptical at first, as were most people. As my fellow classmate Alexander Yang , who also went to the summit, said, “We have this assumption that Congressmen are these invisible people you see once in a while on television, but they actually are human.”

Alex’s cynicism is actually very true. When you walk into a legislative office and tell them you are a constituent from their district that gives you the power above them. They are actually very willing to listen to you about issues. This experience proved to me that the system works; our congressmen do listen to our concerns.

Overall, I had a surreal experience being on Capitol Hill and advocating for something I believe in. This experience was very rewarding and I felt like I had a sense of purpose. In my future career, I hope to do some more lobbying/advocating.

Any public health student at Jefferson needs to take advantage of this opportunity when it arises again.

Pavan Ganapathiraju is a student in the Master of Public Health Program at the Jefferson School of Population Health.

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