Reflecting on My Internship in the United States Senate

Hello! My name is Jaydep Halder and I am a recipient of the 2023 William J. Keefe Congressional Fellowship Award. I am originally from Jefferson City, Missouri and will be entering my Junior year at the University of Pittsburgh this fall. By pursuing majors in Microbiology and Sociology, a minor in Economics, and a certificate in Global Health, I have been able to further my passion for understanding the socioeconomic and sociopolitical influences on health. As an aspiring health policy specialist, I want to help create a world where people can access high-quality medical care regardless of income, background, or appearance. Due to my interest in healthcare’s political determinants, I saw the Keefe Congressional Fellowship as an incredible opportunity to learn about the operations of healthcare policy and develop the skills I need to become an effective public health professional. I was fortunate enough to be offered an intern position within the Office of U.S. Senator Bob Casey, and the experience I had working in the United States Senate is one I will long cherish.

Working in the federal government amongst the Members of Congress, highly qualified staff, and numerous talented interns was amazing. Simply being present during Congressional briefings and special events, and witnessing the actions of Members as they go about their daily business, were privileges I felt incredibly fortunate to have access to. I loved attending Senate hearings and staff-invited events because they allowed me to dive deep into a particular policy issue; learning the nuances of each party’s ideological stance and listening to testimonials of accomplished professionals provided me with an insider’s perspective on the decision-making processes contributing to policy formation. I gained immense knowledge about specific policy areas, the division between the parties, and the underlying forces influencing our national government. I felt that because I was an intern with a relatively high level of freedom, I was in the perfect position to develop educationally and professionally during my time in Washington, D.C. Although most days in the office were jam-packed and intellectually rigorous, I can gratefully say that I used a large portion of each day engaging in the experiences I thought were most valuable.

Most importantly, I had numerous chances to learn about, engage with, and contribute to the health- and healthcare-related policy agendas of the Office of Senator Casey; with this being my top priority going into the internship, I so am glad that the office staff provided the interns the flexibility to pursue what they were passionate about. Some of my most meaningful memories included working and conversing with the healthcare staff on the Healthcare, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. I often spent my mornings listening to the health-related concerns of Pennsylvanians; exposure to such a high volume and diversity of civilian complaints forced me to develop a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted healthcare problems afflicting U.S. society. In addition to the conversations I had with the HELP Committee staffers, this exposure enabled me to draw connections between the policy work conducted by Congressional offices and the practical reforms meant to improve American health outcomes. Overall, the internship greatly enhanced my ability to analyze the interconnectedness of health-related issues and even my capacity for envisioning tangible solutions to these problems.

In addition to providing a broad introduction to the operations of federal legislative offices, interning in the U.S. Senate displayed the many nuances underlying our policy creation procedures. My perspectives on the U.S. medical system and the role of government in addressing healthcare flaws matured considerably, which will correlate significantly to my future aspirations. Creating laws, regulations, and best practices that benefit the American people is a more complicated exercise than we often realize since knowing how to advocate for change and navigate the draft legislation process are considerable barriers. Being immersed in national legislative affairs this summer has helped me to connect the knowledge I have gained at Pitt to the realities of real-world reform. I am now more versed in the complexities of policy initiation and formation and, as a result, can better place my sociology, economics, and political theory coursework in the context of our governmental system. As someone hoping to scrutinize existing regulations and formulate beneficial policies as a career, I am excited to implement the experience I gained this summer into the academic and professional projects I undertake in the future.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the U.S. Senate and would love to return as an intern again, I think the next step for me is to gain exposure to the executive branch of government. For many years, I have been set on pursuing a career in the public sector in hopes of having a broad, beneficial impact on people’s lives in America and worldwide. My Senate internship was, in part, a means for me to explore what it was like to work in the national government and understand the realities of being a public servant. Learning about the legislature was fascinating, but I think I may derive even greater value from experiencing the work of an executive department or agency. I have long been interested in academic research, regulatory practices, and tangible applications of knowledge, all of which are performed frequently by various executive bodies. Considering my passions for health, healthcare, and medical equity, I believe I would love the opportunity to see and understand the operations of, among others, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Serving in one of these bodies may give me a more meaningful avenue to pursue my various passions. Nevertheless, I am grateful for my Senate internship opportunity since it helped outline what I liked and disliked about the public sector and government operations.

Leave a Reply