By Rachel Gunsalus
In contrast to the winter break travel destinations of Milken students, the District can seem rather bleak in January. Reacclimating to the graduate school routine can prove challenging, with historical lows hovering around freezing temperature and the summer’s bike commutes and patio-seating happy hours but distant memories. After a four-week break from classes, students fitfully lurched out of their holiday jammies and begrudgingly went back to remembering what day of the week it was, but little did they know that some people on campus had already been waiting in the wings for them. Their readjustment had been anticipated since before their return, and for these returning students—there were a million things they hadn’t done. Just you wait—because January was Public Health Student Association’s Health Policy and Management month.
Pandering to young, scrappy and hungry graduate students, the month started off with a welcome back happy hour with the Center for Student Engagement. That following Sunday, students said the price of discounted drinks was a price they were willing to pay at the presidential candidate Democratic debate watch at Johnny Pistola’s in Adams Morgan. But the month wasn’t only filled with leisurely events, however; students were given the chance to be a lot smarter, be a self-starter, by starting conversations with the department’s faculty and staff at the 6th floor Coffee Chat over morning muffins and hot beverages. Students were also notified that they could rise up to the opportunity to volunteer at DC HealthLink (the District’s health insurance marketplace) throughout the open enrollment period that lasted until the 31st of January.
Later in the month, Dr. Leighton Ku, interim chair of the HPM Department, was looking for some minds at work and hosted a journal club. The group discussed his recently published Health Affairs article, titled “Medicaid Tobacco Cessation: Big Gaps Remain in Efforts to Get Smokers to Quit,” and everyone benefited from the presence and input of Lisa Fitzpatrick, the medical director for DC Medicaid, and Bonita McGhee, Tobacco Program Manager at the DC Department of Health. Finally, knowing that students would not want to throw away their shot at meeting staff members on the Hill, the Health Policy Student Association hosted a panel of health policy experts from the House of Representatives and Senate on the final weekend of the month (a fantastic alternative to actually being in the room where it happens).
Students enjoyed an action-packed Health Policy and Management month that kept them engaged in and around Milken in an otherwise frosty January (and some were even heard encouraging others to look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now).