Lessons Learned in DC: Our Intern's Mid-Summer Update

Our intern Nicole with her three roommates on the National Mall on the Fourth of July. "Yes, it is true. We have double bunk beds!" says Nicole.

Our intern Nicole with her three roommates on the National Mall on the Fourth of July. "Yes, it is true. We have double bunk beds!" says Nicole.

Guest Blog Post from Nicole Newman, our 2018 summer intern. Learn more about Nicole from her introductory blog post here.

As I have just passed the halfway point of my internship at Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy, I have begun to realize how instrumental the projects I have worked on this summer will be in pursuit of my future aspirations.

I have had the unique ability, thanks to all those that work at Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy, to view current oncologists in a unique lighting in comparison to my other classmates. Instead of spending my summer shadowing different types of doctors, I'm spending the majority of my summer with those who critique the healthcare system and doctors the most.

Due to experiencing the healthcare system in a unique way, I have gained some insights that shadowing doctors could have never taught me:

The first - and arguably the most important - thing I learned has come from being able to attend a variety of coalition meetings. In particular, I learned at the Biden Cancer Collaborative Forum about the disadvantages the power dynamic between patient and doctor has created for patient outcome.

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Even Gregory Simon, the President of the Biden Cancer Initiative, expressed his discomfort with proposing ideas and asking questions to his oncologist while he battled chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This exact discomfort that patients, just like Gregory Simon felt, silences their concerns and can be detrimental to their outcome. It is important for patients to advocate for themselves, but it is also important for doctors to create an environment that encourages equal participation in their treatment plans. This I something I plan to be self-aware of in my future occupation.

Secondly, I've learned through our policy efforts this summer that change is possible. I've seen this with our work to get the General Accounting Office to conduct a review and submit recommendations to Congress on the existing barriers to obtaining and paying for adequate medical care for survivors of childhood cancer.

Though from the outside it may seem that nothing is ever accomplished, changes are happening to improve the lives of children with cancer. This was such an exciting victory to witness at Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy, and I cannot wait to see the results of the GAO’s review all the way back in Minnesota.

Lastly, through attending briefings on the Hill - like a recent briefing on CAR-T Cancer Immunotherapy - I can attest to the fact that there are some amazing oncologists out there. I have had the ability to talk and listen to a few about their innovative research towards advancing treatments and outcomes. It makes me hopeful hearing about the amazing progress that has been made and the ideas that are currently being tested!

Though it is evident that these oncologists are fighting in every way medically possible, I have seen their passion towards fighting in every policy way as well. They are willing to speak to Members of Congress about their knowledge in an easy-to-understand and informative fashion. Their passion is clear when they are speaking, and it is obvious that they are working towards bridging the gap between the medical field and the policy makers. Their willpower and passion are remarkable.