The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: SYLVIA HIPP '22

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Sylvia Hipp '22 interned at the Kennedy Forum during the 2021 winter term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

This winter, I worked as a policy research assistant at the Kennedy Forum, which is a non-profit think tank that targets healthcare and insurance policy in order to increase access to mental healthcare services. The Kennedy Forum serves to unite health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles in order to implement policies that protect patients’ rights to access mental healthcare services. Most notably, the Kennedy Forum works to implement the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which is a federal law that prevents group health plans and health insurers from imposing unequal coverage of mental health and substance use benefits as compared to medical/surgical benefits.

 Throughout my internship, I worked alongside the Senior Policy Advisor on various projects that worked to uphold the goals of the Kennedy Forum. Projects I worked on include researching state bills that implement the Federal Parity Law; contacting California state health plans to gather evidence of parity compliance, and investigating various state initiatives that target the nation’s current mental health crisis during the pandemic. While the majority of my responsibilities involved deskwork and independent research, I made an effort to shadow various meetings in order to gain a greater sense of how the Kennedy Forum functions at large. For example, I attended meetings with the State Parity Legislative and Regulatory Compliance Workgroup, which is a group of health advocates and lawmakers that track the implementation of state bills that uphold parity compliance at the state level.

One of the most positive things about my internship was the opportunity to focus specifically on California policy. When my supervisor learned I was living in California for the term, he made an effort to include me on projects that required me to research California-specific policy and communicate with California-based health plans. I appreciated this because it felt like a direct effort to keep me engaged, and I was able to learn about the major advances that California had made in mental health policy while living there. My internship experience strengthened my general understanding of laws governing mental health services and insurance, which are extremely important given the mental health crisis as a result of the pandemic. While I may apply this knowledge to future work or research, in general, this knowledge will be valuable in my personal life regardless of my profession.

As an intern, I enhanced my research skills and learned how to compile and present my findings in a way that is accessible in a professional setting and concise to best meet the needs of the organization. I learned that there is an incredible amount of resources, effort, and knowledge involved in shaping policy. My exposure to this professional environment has also given me a better idea of what it means to work for a nonprofit and has inspired me to gain experience on the operational side of an organization. Additionally, my work with the Kennedy Forum solidified my interest in the intersection between policy and public health; in the future, I hope to apply a more analytical skill set in order to influence policymaking that affects public access to goods, such as food, healthcare, or housing. I have recently been exploring a variety of career possibilities and am now confident that I will find a position that both compliments my skills and passions. I hope to use my knowledge of healthcare policy and my interest in data analytics to make a more robust impact on people’s access to healthcare beyond what I was able to do with the Kennedy Forum. I would like to thank the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center and (insert fund here) for supporting my internship experience.

The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.

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