Graduate Student Spotlight
MSN Family Nurse Practitioner
Student Name: Rocky Sonemangkhara
The University of Texas System has a campus in Washington, D.C. dubbed “The Archer Center.” It invites promising students from both the undergraduate and graduate level to come to the nation’s capital to learn about federal policy and how that relates to their interests. The structured curriculum involves a policy-making course, an independent study, and a full-time internship. I spent twelve weeks participating in the Graduate Archer Fellowship in Public Policy during the summer of 2019, and that was all it took to change my life forever.
My independent study required me to recommend a policy proposal tailored to my interests. As a current registered nurse, I proposed federal mandates on nurse staffing ratios within inpatient settings as a quality improvement initiative. I targeted this issue because I have personally seen how insufficient staffing can negatively impact patient outcomes. I lobbied my proposal to the Senate HELP Committee as well as advocated for the reauthorization of Title VIII, a provision that extends funding for Nursing Workforce Development Programs.
Furthermore, the internship portion offered me the opportunity to utilize what I learned in the classroom setting into practical applications. As an intern with Allergan, a pharmaceutical company, I worked with their Government Affairs Department on various areas of public policy relevant to the life sciences industry. I was involved in complex regulatory and legislative matters important to Allergan.
For example, one of my contributions were formal comments on important matters before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Food and Drug Administration. I called upon my first-hand clinical experiences in hospital systems and connected them to the current real-world needs of health care professionals and their patients to improve the quality of policy recommendations. I also developed policy briefs to communicate government trends with key organizational leaders within the company, assisted in drafting regulatory comments to increase public access to pharmaceutical products, wrote policy nominations to protect intellectual property against activities that posed health and safety concerns, and coordinated strategic proposals for state plan amendments to request permissible program changes within CMS. The association between class material and the experience derived from the internship has highlighted the importance of strategic political maneuvers in order to gain favorable outcomes.
My experiences, however, went beyond professional development. My personal growth came from making friends with students from the other University of Texas campuses and networking with many professionals in Washington D.C. My classmates fueled my passion for public policy while also providing me a modality of maintaining my work-life balance. I traveled to Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia to tour and sightsee. We got invited to The White House, The Pentagon, the House and Senate Galleries at the U.S. Capitol, and the live taping of NBC’s Meet the Press. We also visited different monuments, museums, theaters, and congressional hearings. We celebrated during the Pride Parade, Independence Day, and various other events too. Networking allowed me the opportunity to meet with many professionals in my field and taught me the soft skills like how to talk to people. This skill, in particular, landed me a temporary internship within the office of U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert, where I worked with his Health Legislative Assistant on Medicare Part D reform.
I cannot say enough about how this opportunity has impacted my life and how I view what I can do for patients beyond the bedside setting. This experience has promoted my interests to pursue a career that marries my passion for public service and policy. It gave me both the tangible and intangible skills to impact the public health of my community.