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Gaining A Health Policy Education On Capitol Hill

Gaining A Health Policy Education On Capitol HillTufts University School of Medicine student Yen Truong is spending eight months on Capitol Hill, gaining a real-world education in health policy.

Boston [05.14.07] It’s not the traditional course of study for a medical student, but Yen Truong is taking a break from classes at Tufts University School of Medicine to study health policy on Capitol Hill. In September 2006, the California native learned that she had been named a congressional fellow by the Women's Research & Education Institute (WREI), a national nonprofit focused on women’s issues. Four months later, Truong headed to Washington, DC, to become a legislative fellow to a California congresswoman.

“I knew that I wanted to take a year off to do work in health policy, so I looked around to see what was out there,”says Truong. Through a Google search, she discovered the WREI fellowship opportunity.

An integrative biology and political science major in college, Truong says that she’s always been intrigued by politics. Working with U.S. Representative Lois Capps (D-Calif.)—a registered nurse with medical expertise—has allowed her to combine a variety of her academic interests.

“She has a particular interest in health policy,”says Truong, noting that Capps sits on the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Health subcommittee. Because of Capps’medical background and Truong’s training at Tufts, the student says “people come to us”for information and advice on health-related issues.

Capps is also the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, so Truong is getting a chance to deal with various women’s issues at the policy level. She assists the congresswoman by meeting with advocacy groups and lobbyists, preparing statements and documents and attending events. Truong says she is soaking up all that she can from her experience as a congressional fellow.

“The strategy is what they don’t teach you in school,”says Truong about what she calls the “behind-the-scenes”work that goes on in Washington, DC. “It’s what I really appreciate.”

When Truong, who is also pursuing a master’s in public health at Tufts University School of Medicine, returns to Boston in August, she plans to finish her M.D. and M.P.H. degrees and then enter the obstetrics and gynecology field. She says that she is glad that she has had an opportunity during medical school to explore the health policy field.

“I have been trying to figure out what I want to do with my career,”she says. Her experience in DC has given her a good idea.

“I can envision myself going into health policy whether it’s working in government like I do now, working for a nonprofit or internationally,”says Truong.

But that’s still a long way off. In the near future, Truong intends to practice medicine while “keeping a peripheral interest in health policy.”Twenty years down the road, though, she says may cross back over to the policy side of health care.

“This experience has helped me appreciate that I also love health policy,”she says.

Profile written by Meghan Mandeville, Web Communications. Photo courtesy of Yen Truong.

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