Notes from the Field: Elizabeth Akau '18

Elizabeth Akau ’18 interned at the office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz for the Summer 2017 term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

I interned at the office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz which is comprised of the staff that supports the work of Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) in crafting legislation, making informed decisions, and representing his Hawaii constituents in the Senate. As a Schatz intern, my primary responsibilities included managing incoming correspondence from constituents; working under a policy advisor attending briefings, writing memos, and researching relevant policies and programs; providing tours of the capitol and congressional office buildings to constituents; and completing basic administrative tasks to keep the office organized.

I was a member of team health working under the health policy advisor and health legislative correspondent. I primarily attended briefings related to the health sector and wrote subsequent memos with policy recommendations for the Senator. In addition to attending briefings, I assisted the health legislative correspondent drafting letter responses to constituents with concerns or specific requests related to health legislation. I helped the health policy advisor schedule meetings and phone calls with special interest groups as well as summarize and input all health-related meetings in the Microsoft access database. Since Congress this summer was consumed by GOP “repeal and replace” efforts, I assisted the office’s speechwriter by researching statistics, anecdotes, and other facts to include in Senator Schatz’s floor speeches on healthcare reform. For my final assignment, I compiled research from briefings, previously introduced bills, and articles related to price and quality of care transparency in the healthcare and drug market. 

During my time interning for Senator Schatz, I was able to delve into a specific policy area and better understand Congress’ role in shaping our health care. Prior to this experience, I did not have much exposure to health policy or any type of policy-in-action. This internship changed my lack of “real world” experience and helped me understand my genuine interest in health policy. This experience would not have been possible without the grant from the Rockefeller Center. In addition, the MLDP and RGLP programs through Rocky helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses through the Myers-Briggs test and Intercultural Development Inventory assessment. Understanding how I interact with coworkers, supervisors, and mentors helped me effectively network with many Hawaiians on the Hill as well as learn to bridge gaps between individuals with different beliefs from me. After Dartmouth, I hope to combine my passion to advocate for Native Hawaiians and new interest in healthcare through public policy in the government sector.