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.
Lourine Weller graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2015. She attended the PLEN Science and Health Policy: Critical Issues Seminar with a scholarship sponsored by Novo Nordisk.