I survived my first day working for the federal government! Well, the Department of Health and Human Services is technically a federal agency. Surprisingly, the overall climate was very apolitical. The environment would probably have been very different had I chosen to intern for a congressman or elsewhere on the Hill…
Here are some of my observations and first impressions:
1. Practically everyone in D.C. takes the Metro to work. The subway does not discriminate; interns, young professionals, and senior leadership all commute this way. Pro tip: wear comfortable shoes and bring along heels/flats to change into before entering your building.
2. Escalators reveal a lot about people. On the right, you have your older working folk, senior citizens, and swooning couples. The left side of the escalator is the passing lane. It mostly consists of interns, and a few young people late for a meeting. I don’t do well standing still, or waiting in lines for that matter, so I opted for the left.
3. Federally-operated departments and agencies run on tight schedules. Maggie, my mentor, scheduled me for around 10 orientation meetings to take place this week and the beginning of next. Correspondingly, I received 10 Google Calendar invitation emails.
4. The staff was so chill. Without context, I could have been interning at a large company. Nothing jumped out at me as being government-related, except for the content of the projects.
5. Modern medicine focuses on treating the disease and the individual. Public health expands this view to encompass the wellbeing of larger communities and society. Moreover, public health prioritizes prevention. While I am still inadequately informed to develop a complete opinion on the Affordable Care Act, I do appreciate its prioritization of prevention and population health. Thousands of Americans who had previously been uninsured now receive quality and inexpensive health services, and this increased coverage boosts America’s national immunity. I hope that medical schools and training programs augment focus on prevention. While education is itself a means of prevention, numerous practices, such as vaccination (or fluoride treatments, if I think back on the GMB trip to Nicaragua where we accompanied “charlas” of teaching dental hygiene with short teeth cleaning procedures), can decrease the likelihood of a disease outbreak.
6. Vaccines uniquely address both personal and population health concerns. They afford both individual and herd immunity. It is eye-opening to visualize the state of modern medicine through this dual-lens.