My practicum was a little weird but it worked out surprisingly well

Empty light wood table top with blur office background

By: Meredith Yinger – 2nd Year- Health Policy & Management

I did my practicum through the graduate internship program at the National Academy of Social Insurance in Washington, DC. I was one of nine interns selected for the 12 week program. For a Rollins student, this was a somewhat unconventional practicum.

I heard about the internship program at the Academy from another Rollins student who was a year ahead of me. She explained that she did policy research and memo writing for a labor union, and even though that wasn’t directly related to healthcare she had a great experience. The Academy provides a fairly generous stipend, and they match you with an organization that fits your interests.

I was placed at the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB). SSAB is a tiny government agency that advises the Social Security Administration, and is made up of a politically appointed bipartisan Board and a support staff of about 8 full time employees. Being so small, the staff were all very busy but always took the time to help me with whatever I was working on. I primarily did background research on various Social Security issues that the Board was interested in, and presented my research orally and in memo form. I also got to help write a major report on Representative Payees. (I now have a lot of random Social Security knowledge so if anyone ever needs a crash course just let me know!)

While I enjoyed my experience at SSAB, I think the networking opportunities I had were also incredibly valuable. The Academy hosted several events and informational seminars throughout the summer. They had a Gala in June that I attended, and I ended up sitting next to the Chief Actuary of Social Security. Fun fact: he carries around one of those huge Trader Joes bars of dark chocolate. I also was allowed to go to any other events I wanted, so I ended up at a few seminars about Medicaid, ACA repeal, as well as the Disability Research Consortium and the Retirement Research Consortium.

I also got to meet a lot of amazing people who work on long term services and supports (LTSS) for the aging and disabled populations. This was big for me, since that’s the area I want to work in after I graduate and there aren’t a ton of people doing LTSS work here at Rollins. Most of the people that I met were incredibly helpful and equally excited that I want to do LTSS policy. These experiences also provided me with a lot of confidence when it comes to networking and informational interviews.

So in summary here are some take away points:

  1. Don’t be afraid to work on something that is a little bit outside of the realm of healthcare (or your comfort zone) if it gets you good experience and networking opportunities.
  2. And on a related note, don’t limit yourself to what is on Handshake or being talked about around Rollins when you are looking for a practicum.
  3. Talk to the people sitting next to you at Galas even if it is really awkward at first.
  4. Social Security is important and it is not going to be gone by the time we are old.
  5. If you want to talk LTSS, aging, and disability policy, or about the Academy or Washington DC, email the Rollins Ambassador email and ask to speak to me!
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