Legislative Day 2017: Raising a Student Voice

“For young college students whose voices are usually marginalized in politics, Legislative Day was an opportunity to have the undivided attention of our legislators, having them hear our concerns for public health in our communities and solutions for improved public health.”

That was the comment of Christine Rizkala, a member of the University of Akron (UA) team of students who participated in NEOMED’s annual event. She called their work on mental health “one of the most real-world projects I’ve had.’’

Here’s the final article in a series of articles by students and staff on Legislative Day 2017. Read on for more thoughts from Rizkala, pictured in the front row, wearing a white skirt.

July 28, 2017, was Legislative Day at NEOMED, in which I, along with my fellow BS/MD students at Kent State University, Youngstown State University and UA presented our public health policy proposals to NEOMED staff and to local legislators. This event, held in the NEOMED Education and Wellness (NEW) Center in front of the Watanakunakorn Auditorium, was part of a summer practicum class for BS/MD students, teaching the importance and the role of physicians in public health.

The NEW Center was full of nervous energy as we stood by our policy posters, available for anyone at NEOMED to see. One by one, each public health group from the three universities was called to present their proposal to legislators in the conference rooms. This was the culmination of weeks’ work of research and planning, all in the hopes of possibly influencing future public health policy in Portage, Mahoning and Summit Counties.  

The extensive research that went into the epidemiology of our health topic, creation of our policy intervention, and preparation for Legislative Day was unlike any project I have done for my other classes. My group and I would spend hours every week perfecting our policy, and with the feedback from our professors, there was always more to change and perfect. Though it was difficult at times, it was all worth the feedback and insight we received for our intervention. In our future professions, any one of us may be called up to lobby for public health reform.

 I appreciated the opportunity to experience the advocacy role of physicians in public health firsthand.

Supporting Public Health in the Community

The Summer Practicum in Public Health was coordinated by Kim M.K. Trowbridge, M.Ed., a graduate faculty member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Through NEOMED’s College of Graduate Studies, Trowbridge is also faculty for the Consortium of Eastern Ohio Master of Public Health program, a nontraditional program geared toward the working professional.

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