Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Scholarship Blog | January 2015

Six students received scholarships to attend PLEN’s Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar in Washington, D.C. January 5- 8, 2015.

Sponsorship by Novo Nordisk made it possible for six students to attend the seminar.

Anna Rabideau, PLEN Scholarship Recipient  Sponsored by Novo Nordisk
Senior, St. Lawrence University 

When my advisor told me about the PLEN Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar, I did not entirely know what to expect. After doing research and reading about the experiences of PLEN alumnae, however, I knew it was an opportunity worth taking. As a senior at St. Lawrence University, it was about that time for me to decide my next step. As I headed to Washington DC at the beginning of the new year, I hoped PLEN would give me guidance on potential careers in science and health policy.

As an anthropology major interested in developing healthcare and environmental sustainability, I was curious to learn about the presence of scientists (especially women scientists) in politics and public policy. The speakers not only gave me insight into the numerous jobs and educational opportunities related to science and health policy available for post-grads, they inspired me to look into ways I can translate my interests in both the biological and social sciences into a career. Beyond this, I found the numerous workshops to be extremely informative of how to make a positive statement in the professional realm.

To say I was impressed with the quality of the PLEN conference would be an understatement. I, as well as all of the young women who attended the Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar hosted by PLEN, owe a huge “thank you!” to all of the volunteers, speakers, and especially Fahim Gulamali and Lisa Rice who worked to make this seminar as profound as it was. I would also like to thank my sponsor, Novo Nordisk, whose support and generosity made it possible for me to attend the conference.

Chinhsien Tsai, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Novo Nordisk
Junior, Wesleyan College 

I came across a poster about PLEN in the political department at my school. I didn’t think about applying to the seminar, as I thought it was for students who were interested in political science, until I took a closer look. The seminar entitled “PLEN Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar” caught my eye, and I knew I had to apply. Before coming to this PLEN seminar, I simply expected to be given tools to prepare for the professional world. Coming out of the seminar, I have learned much more than I expected.

I began my undergraduate career as an economic and business major. After two years, I decided to change my major to biology and environmental science. In my spare time, I am passionate about exploring the policy world in a debating society. I saw no connection between the three seemingly distinct fields, as much as I had wanted there to be one. However, after attending the Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar my desire to find a connection was quickly resolved.

The Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues seminar is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This seminar pushed me to think outside the box, illustrated the structure and mechanism of the professional world, and brought me and my fellow alumnae to a policy world that I might otherwise have never known how to enter. Perhaps I am even more confused than ever before, but now I am able to navigate myself and reaffirm my resolution of pursing what I want to do in the future. Thank you to Novo Nordisk for giving me the extraordinary opportunity to attend this seminar that has forever altered my life.

Klare Nevins, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Novo Nordisk 
Junior, St. Lawrence University

I learned about PLEN and the Science and Health Policy seminar through my academic advisor. From all the seminars listed, the Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar stood out to me. I wanted to expose myself to new professional fields, and felt as if this seminar could provide me with this outlet. Prior to the seminar, I had little knowledge of the process that goes into policy-making and the opportunities for women in this field who are also interested in science and public health careers. I saw this seminar as a valuable tool to furthering my educational passions and developing the necessary professional skills to succeed in the future.

This seminar exceeded my expectations, not only because it opened my eyes to a new field in policy-making, but also because it exposed me to many exceptional, inspiring, and impressive women who work on a daily basis to promote the representation of science and health policy in our nation. Additionally, each student at the seminar was able to develop her professional skills and gained valuable knowledge on how to present professionally and feel confident in advocating for herself in pursuing a career.

My biggest take away from this seminar was learning what success meant in a career—a part of which was how to succeed and find true happiness in life. Initially, every panelist did not see herself in the positions she currently holds. Each panelist stressed that it is more important to develop oneself as a whole person – someone who can be adaptable, open, and passionate. Another take-away was the power of networking! I learned that it is so important to talk to the people in your life and use the resources that are available to you to the highest degree.

As a PLEN alumna, I have walked away with a strong professional toolkit, confidence in my own abilities and an idea of what I have to offer to the betterment of our nation, and ultimately, the world.

In the end, I would like to thank my scholarship donor Novo Nordisk. Without their generosity, I would not have attended this eye opening seminar.

Lourine Weller, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Novo Nordisk 
Senior, St. Lawrence University 

Throughout my undergraduate career in Anthropology and African Studies at St. Lawrence University, I have asked my school friends how they were going to spend various college breaks. On several occasions they had mentioned they would be attending a PLEN seminar focused on a certain field of study. I had wondered what such a seminar entailed and how I could attend one. Then recently, my Anthropology professor approached me with the idea of attending a PLEN seminar in January 2015 concerning careers in science and health policy. When I researched this seminar online, I discovered it would be perfect for me. It would enable the attending students to engage in discussions with various woman leaders in careers similar to the one I hope to enter—Public Health. My excitement grew when I read that the PLEN attendees would visit major research centers for health issues, such as NIH and HRSA, and spend a day on Capitol Hill.

Before attending the PLEN seminar in Washington, D.C., I presumed I would encounter only topics related to careers in the fields of health and science. Indeed, I did get a wonderful introduction to the work that goes into policymaking in those areas, and how those policies affect people’s decisions in the field. However, I got much more from the seminar than I had expected. The PLEN leaders introduced the attendees to a wide variety of panelists that could answer any question we had, and were committed to help us achieve our career goals. Unexpectedly, I received very helpful career advice on topics not directly regarding health or science, topics with which I had little exposure in the past: negotiating a salary effectively, improving my resume, and “putting myself out there” when trying to get into a career. Most useful of all, the PLEN leaders introduced us in informal settings to numerous woman leaders in science and health fields and encouraged us to make and keep meaningful connections.

Completing the PLEN seminar has helped me become even more certain of my career path of Public Health. Because of it, I now know there is no “one right way” of accomplishing my career goals. I hope to use the PLEN seminar’s introduction to the development of science and health policy to help me forge a career doing groundwork that deals with the “other side” of health care policy—serving as a bridge between the larger world of medical professionals and the people it serves. Thankfully with the generous gift from Novo Nordisk, I can see the seminar as the catalyst for my Public Health career in the near future.

Thu Phan, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Novo Nordisk 
Sophomore, Tulane University  

SHP15_Thu Phan Blog Post Pic_FINAL

During the course of the Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar, I became friends with many inspirational college women. Though we came from different backgrounds and have different experiences, we were there because of our love for science. I, like many others, didn’t see how policy and science were interconnected. PLEN opened my eyes to the idea that one can still have a passion for science and be involved in policy. Policy and politics aren’t exclusively spaces for lawyers and politicians. Policy is a wide arena that welcomes every discipline.

At the beginning of the seminar, I had only 33 connections on my LinkedIn profile. After going through the ‘Building Your LinkedIn Profile’ workshop, my connections grew to 155.  I had attended many networking events before, but never followed up with the people I met. It was not because I forgot; it was because I was afraid that they won’t remember me and reject my invitation to connect with them. I felt like a small person who didn’t matter. PLEN made me realize that I am valuable to others; I just needed to make my value known. 

My experience at the seminar showed me how open PLEN is to every idea, religion, and political ideology. There were Republican as well as Democratic panelists. They were all very welcoming and shielded away from controversial issues such as abortion, race, religion, etc. PLEN welcomed everybody with open arms while also allowing the women to be exposed to organizations and people that come from different political ideologies.

Yacine Ndiaye, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Novo Nordisk
Junior, University of North Texas

PLEN has taSHP15_Yacine Ndiaye Blog Photo_FINALught me that with any degree, I can make my dreams come true. This sentence was the first thing that came to my mind when asked what the weeklong PLEN 2015 Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar has taught me. However, it is just one thing among so many.

As a biology student, I have always told myself that there are probably two fields I am destined to: medicine or research; the former an expensive endeavor and the latter a field I have never been excited about. So, there I was already settled on my fate as many others in my shoes—until I got to DC. I came to the science and health policy seminar excited and not knowing what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Reflecting back on the seminar, I now see my life, especially my career, through a different lens. I still don’t know exactly what I am going to do, but I now know what I CAN do: anything I am passionate about from health policy on a national level to global health. Learning from women who are thriving in their careers was very empowering and priceless. As I listened to each person narrating her path, one important thing I learned is that there is no such thing as a linear path and that one should be prepared to deviate from her or his original path. That advice gave me an entirely new insight on life.

Attending this seminar was by far one of the best experiences I have had regarding my career and my academic life. From day one, every person I met, from the panelists to the students, has inspired me in so many ways. PLEN has not only given me a more confident and ambitious look into my future, but it has also given me the network to work towards that future. I am so happy to have stopped and picked a PLEN brochure, but most importantly I am thrilled that I applied for a scholarship—receiving it made all this possible.

As a PLEN alumna, I am so excited to apply all I have learned during this seminar and look forward to a thriving career ready for all challenges, all thanks to PLEN.