From October 8 to 10, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the PLEN Health Policy seminar with undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities all over the United States. This three-day event, which took place for the majority of the time at the Residence Inn Washington Hotel in downtown DC, counted with a diverse array of speakers whose unique trajectories of overcoming personal, academic, and professional challenges highlight the need for diverse and inclusive networking settings such as those provided by PLEN.
Despite not being my first PLEN seminar, the Health Policy seminar was very unique on its own. It offered me a chance to improve the skills I developed while attending the STEM Policy seminar, such as networking and negotiation. In addition, it was an excellent opportunity to enhance my understanding of global health issues. For instance, I gained significant insights from the keynote address, the panels on “Introduction to Health Policy” and “Launching your Career in Health Policy”, the Running Start Workshop, the State Department Simulation, and the Global Health Policy session. I found it very interesting to participate in the State Department Simulation, where my team represented Doctors Without Borders as we negotiated the response to the International Ebola Crisis as a public health emergency with different groups involved. This experience allowed me to reflect on policymakers' challenges, especially in issues that affect various stakeholders differently.
Overall, I found a lot of value in learning about health policy since health is a significant dimension of human capital development alongside education. Furthermore, by attending the Health Policy Seminar, I was exposed to different perspectives from speakers with diverse academic and professional backgrounds who are already working on advancing their fields. Ultimately, this seminar provided new insights for my incoming research experiences on economic development, focusing on human capital development.
Finally, my PLEN power for this seminar is, without a doubt, being resourceful. In our daily lives, it is common to hear people using the expressions "be strong," "be brave," and "be fearless," which are all powerful statements as we prepare to face life's challenges. But, very few, if anyone, will use the word "resourceful" in similar circumstances. In my case, it was not until this seminar that I felt the need to make this word a priority in my vocabulary. Being resourceful implies more than being skilled at solving one's own problems or making decisions on our own. Being resourceful is also being able to find and use different approaches to achieve one's goals.
PLEN speakers bring great examples of resourcefulness. They share their distinguished childhood dreams, how they responded to challenges, how they embraced vulnerability to failure and how they found their own ways to accomplish their goals. They are so inspiring because they advocated for a future they could see for themselves like no one else. They learned to unlearn and challenge the status quo to redefine themselves and their future as often as needed. Such a level of intimate networking we get to have such incredible women through PLEN is needed to continue to show PLEN attendees that there is a space for our dreams and career goals in our intended professional fields. Being resourceful can help us get there.
Cecília Gomes is a current senior at Luther College. Cecília attended the Fall 2022 Health Policy Seminar, and received the Ellie Shaw Scholarship.