Yesterday was my final day-long seminar at Teaism in Northwest D.C. as part of the Baker Institute’s Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Research Fellowship Program. Dr. Lewis, the program director, flew up from Houston for a weekend of individual meetings and meals on Friday and Saturday followed by three consecutive meals and rich intellectual discussion on five books on Sunday. I’d particularly recommend Martha Nussbaum’s Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach, William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs, and Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
You might be thinking that these books sound like they have nothing to do with medicine or healthcare, and for the most part, you’d be right. I hadn’t heard of any of the assigned books prior to this summer, although a few of my peers had. Regardless of not knowing about these books, I approached each argument with an [inherently] unbiased and pragmatic mindset (the type of mindset I do best)–and many a time, I was hoping for more black-and-white themes and proposed solutions. While scientific research and medical quandaries demand a certain level of innovation, the methodology and analysis are simple, objective. The level of analysis required to even partially understand the theories in these books was beyond that I have ever had to exercise. And I thought Shakespearean English was impossible in high school. These books were in plain English (okay…except for Marx, maybe :P), yet my mental capacities were challenged beyond comprehension. At times, I could translate main concepts and themes into health-related contexts I understand well, and in these situations, I thrived. In other conversations, I realized that I must keep more up-to-date with the latest current events and editorial pieces so that I can build a repertoire of relevant details and stories from which to support my points better.
Coming away from these seminars, I am extremely humbled by the intellect and conversational abilities of my peers. They seemed to understand every detail and more. I tend to consider myself a more eloquent impromptu writer than speaker, but I can only improve if I continue to push myself to speak out in these situations–seminars being one kind. This skill will also come in handy if I randomly meet any important people. Maybe it’s time to write an elevator pitch. 🙂