Guest Post: My Internship at ACS CAN
Every summer at ACS CAN we are lucky to welcome a bright, talented group of interns to our national office who are dedicated to the fight against cancer. Katie Wright, this summer's policy team intern, wrote a feature about her ACS CAN internship experience on the Harvard Kennedy School's Admissions Blog that I found very moving and wanted to share. It's just one example of the passionate staff, volunteers and interns that make ACS CAN such a great organization. Before coming to HKS, I worked for the White House and the Center for American Progress on women and family policy issues, including paid family and medical leave, workplace flexibility, and federal antipoverty programs. But my most meaningful role was caregiver to my mother when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in the fall of 2013. Cancer turned our lives upside down. I took a leave of absence from my job in D.C., moved back home to Minnesota, and was thrown into the world of doctors, nurses, hospitals, jargon, forms, tests, test results, and more as my mom went through treatment. Days were long, unpredictable, and gut wrenching. The experience changed my life and my policy interests not long before I moved to Cambridge to begin the MPP program last year.
Fortunately, HKS is a great place to continue the work you were doing before, shift gears, or do both. Professor Robert Blendon's excellent course on Political Analysis and Strategy for U.S. Health Care Policy provided me with a crash course on the politics that shape health policy in this countryan area that I had only experienced personally, not academically or professionally. This summer, I am working for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network's (ACS CAN) incredible policy team in Washington, DC. ACS CAN is the nation's leading cancer advocacy organization that is working every day to make cancer issues a national priority. I am working on health care delivery system and payment reformidentifying patient and family challenges across the cancer care continuum and developing policy solutions to make the system more responsive and equitable. I have also been fortunate to work on a range of other health policy issues, including tobacco control, access to care, health equity, patient quality of life, cancer prevention, drug development and approval, Medicare, Medicaid, and more. One of the most fulfilling things I have done this summer (in addition to experiencing the excitement at the Supreme Court after the King v. Burwell decision!), is to volunteer with ACS CAN staff at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in Baltimore, MD. The Hope Lodge in Baltimore, like others across the country, provides free lodging and transportation to area treatment centers for cancer patients and caregivers while they are undergoing treatment. Hope Lodge gives people from various income levels and geographic areas access to life-saving cancer care. We prepared a meal and spent time visiting with guests. We heard about their daily ups and downs, their experiences with the health care system, and their hopes and concerns about the future. Our policy work, as it often is here, has been informed by some of the nation's true health care expertsthose whose lives depend on it. Health policy and reform efforts have the potential to improve, save, or lengthen the lives of millions of people living with cancer today. It has been a pleasure to contribute to the work of an organization doing such important work on issues that impact so many families, including my own.