When I first enrolled as a Pathobiology major, I never thought much about the political process and how it impacts science. I thought that by taking a basic civics course in high school that I knew more than enough about the government and how a bill becomes a law. After taking one political science class sophomore year, I realized just how wrong I was. While science is something that is often objective and testable, the way science is implemented in society is messy. Things like: religion, finances, ethics, and personal vendettas can either take scientific research and use it to benefit the general public, or use it as a tool for discrimination and misrepresentation of facts. It has been seen before. From using information on HIV as a way to hinder LGBT+ people in healthcare, to having environmental science affect our energy policies in the United States and abroad, public policy and politics have great effects on not only public health, but science and agriculture itself. Even our programs at UConn are affected by public policy in the form of budget cuts.
In order to learn more and get a hands on experience, I obtained a position as an intern for the Connecticut General Assembly, the legislative branch for our state, through UConn’s Political Science department. As an intern, I had the opportunity to apply my knowledge of pathobiology as well as my experiences at UConn from UConn Model United Nations and Undergraduate Student Government. I often conducted research on various issues ranging from veterans affairs to public health. I was able to observe various hearings and meetings regarding vital programs that actually made Connecticut the second state to end homelessness for veterans as well as a looming budget that had to be passed and yet be sustainable for the state.
Research had to be one of my favorite roles as an intern. One of the best examples I can think of was a resolution addressing vapor pens and their effects on public health. Many people believe that because e-cigarettes use water vapor, they must be harmless to your health. As I have learned from my Principles of Pathobiology course as well as an Allied Health seminar I attended, smoking an e-cigarette does not decrease the costs to one’s health. In addition to this, I learned from financial research at the Office of Legislative Research that the costs of medicare and medicaid for treatments of chronic emphysema and tumor growth can become astronomical. I was able to combine past knowledge from my courses and new knowledge on how the budget works to yield evidence and support for my legislator as to why e-cigarettes and other forms of vapor smoking are just as dangerous.
Public policy, science, and agriculture are not mutually exclusive fields. The research we conduct, the public health requirements we implement, and the cost to taxpayers are all issues that are intertwined. This connection is vital and one that any student should look into. Interning at the Connecticut General Assembly has guided me towards a career in public health and public policy. I aspire to alleviate many issues affecting the health of our state, especially for marginalized groups. As a senior, people often ask for advice on how to make the UConn experience worthwhile. My one piece of advice, do an internship that sparks an interest. Regardless of what it is, try it and see where it takes you. Exploring the unknown is part of the college experience.
For more information about the CGA internship, visit their website at https://www.cga.ct.gov/isc/future.asp.