Week-long course features intimate access to Congressional staffs, think-tank scholars, Health & Human Services, and more.
A conversation with Leslie Bruce, J.D., a seasoned health care communicator and advocate who leads the Politics & Public Policy of U.S. Healthcare course in Washington, D.C.
Tell us about this unusual course in the nation’s capital.
It’s a 40-hour course that enables master’s degree students and community health leaders to have up-close-and-personal contact with public policy officials in Washington. In five days, you gain access to an enviable list of power players – from scholars at the leading Think Tanks to officials at Health and Human Services, from the lobbyists for the American Hospital Association to Senator Boxer and Feinstein’s staff members.
It sounds like a Congressional internship — but a week-long version for working professionals.
Yes, for health care professionals. One RN attorney has been six times. A compliance officer, a senior vice president at a health staffing company, a military administrator, and a nurse leader who is trying to change the world: all of them want to channel their energy into changing laws or policy, first by intimately understanding the system and by developing a network of powerful contacts in Washington. As Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
How does this program help participants further their agendas to change public health policy?
In a myriad of ways! For one, they become very educated citizens who understand the detailed process by which policy becomes law. We hear the latest trends and data, we grasp the dynamics that shape the conversation in Washington. By having face-to-face meetings with scholars, departmental officials, congressional staffers and others, the participants start conversations that extend well beyond this week. Overall, the participants become better communicators and advocates – with a sense of how to best convey the information in ways that can affect change in government.
Where does the course meet in Washington, D.C.?
The first day is a classroom experience at the University of California center in DC, known as UCDC, where we set the stage for the week with speakers from leading policy institutes. Tuesday, we spend the day at Health and Human Services, finding out about rules and regulations, especially with regard to the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday, we meet with a chief of staff from a congressional office who shows students how to write a one-page issue paper, how to cut the fat out of the writing so you communicate succinctly with legislators and their staffs. We spend the last two days on Capitol Hill visiting with every congressional office that represents the students in the course.
What do you expect to be the hot topics this year?
The Republican control of Congress, definitely. We will find out what Congressional leaders can actually do to modify the Affordable Care Act, and the politics that drive the process.
What results have you seen among the students who attend the D.C. course?
I’ve seen people become better leaders and take on more leadership positions within their organizations, particularly within trade and professional organizations. They learn to become truly gifted advocates and, again, a resource for legislators when they build on those relationships.
What is most gratifying for you as the instructor?
Exposing participants to how the process works and the people involved. We meet people who have left the health care industry to devote their lives to public policy and it’s tireless work. The students inevitably remark at how smart and how dedicated the public servants are with whom they meet. They also see that these are career options they can pursue.
So if they get the bug to work in Washington, it’s not too late?
The students so often say, “These officials are just like me, they care about the same things.” It’s always a shock to participants to hear the number of fellowships that are available for working professionals, especially ones who work in important, life-saving fields. Students can be change-makers here at home, or they can take their talents to the Beltway.
Visit the Extension site to register, and to learn more about the Politics & Public Policy of Healthcare – Washington, D.C..
Leslie Bruce has more than 25 years' experience in San Diego area business. She has directed advocacy, communications and community relations efforts for UCSD Health Sciences, Sharp HealthCare, and the American Heart Association.