MIT Careers Office and Public Service Center Host Health Policy Seminar/Event

On November 6th, 35 students attended “Doctoring Policy: Understanding the Intersection of Health and Law”, a speaker-event jointly organized by Preprofessional Advising in the MIT Careers Office (MITCO) and the Public Service Center (PSC). Two authoritative speakers discussed their career paths in the legal and medical professions and their current work affecting change in health policy- an area of growing interest for MIT students. The event also highlighted opportunities for students to engage in health policy work.

Jarrett Barrios, a lawyer by training and former Massachusetts State Representative and Senator, spoke about his current work as the President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. The Foundation’s primary goal is to expand access to healthcare in the state and as such, Mr. Barrios has been active in helping to implement healthcare reform in Massachusetts. Joia Mukherjee, MD, MPH, Medical Director for Partners in Health and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, spoke about the advocacy work she has undertaken on behalf of individuals in the developing world who lack access to good healthcare. The speakers complemented each other nicely: Jarrett provided a local perspective, while Joia addressed local issues.

Both speakers provided insight into their career paths, and emphasized the importance of their own values and interests in making career decisions. Since college, Jarrett knew he wanted to do public service, though he was not sure what form this service would take until he interned in the office of a local politician. Joia was passionate from the start about inequalities in healthcare in the developing world. Thus, instead of treating one patient at a time, she decided to use her medical training to advocate for patients on a broader level.

Jarret and Joia both discussed how hard it is to make change in the world. Joia encouraged students to engage in the political process and seek to bring awareness about issues that concern them. Jarrett made it clear that leadership experiences are critical. He encouraged students to participate in student organizations, sports, and leadership development programs since these activities will help students develop the management skills they will later need no matter their career!

In addition to the speakers, Preprofessional Advising and the PSC profiled five MIT students - Laura Daher, Liz Zhang, Joshua Geltman, Dana Sun, and Adam Was - who have taken part in experiences in health policy both locally and abroad. Laura and Liz received Public Service Fellowships to address health policy issues. Laura developed an educational program on Diabetes management for the Native American community in the Taos and Picuris in Northern New Mexico. Liz researched diagnostic technologies to develop a list of criteria for evaluating devices to be used in the field in Tanzania. Supported by the MIT Washington D.C. Internship program, Joshua and Dana interned at the World Bank and the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, respectively. Adam Was, a recent alumnus, has worked with governments to improve their health systems. These student stories illustrated the many ways our students can get involved in health policy work beginning during their undergraduate education.

At the dessert reception following the event, the students mingled with the speakers and student leaders to further investigate ways they can get involved. Attendees of this event commented on how inspirational the speakers were and that they were further inspired to explore their interest in health