As I walked out of Reagan National airport, the first thing that literally hit me was the rain. It’s almost a complete flip from the weather in Arizona. Then the colors hit me. As I was using a shuttle to get to WISH, all the colors of the trees and buildings seemed so vibrant, and this speaks a lot to the difference in environment between Phoenix and DC. The other thing stuck out from my short time here so far is the architectural style of many buildings in the area. The architecture was even more prominent during our trip to Annapolis, which has strict housing policy to maintain the historical colonial look and culture of the area. Washington DC is also a very diverse city with all types of people. To add to this fact, almost every Uber ride I was in was with a driver with a different ethnicity. I have also learned of the face-paced culture of DC and that people are not afraid to honk at you if you are driving too slow or if you are in the way. One of the other impactful experiences I had last week was the visit to the Arlington National Cemetery during Memorial day. It was really moving to see so many people pay respect to the soldiers who sacrificed themselves for country, and it was a surreal experience to see President Trump himself with other high profile people in his administration. Although I see Trump and his administration on television all the time, it is truly something else to witness his speech in person.
I look forward to learning a lot more about health policy and efficient quality control in the healthcare area with my internship. My internship is with the Office of Management and Policy within the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The OIG at HHS is responsible for maintaining the integrity of large government health programs, of which the two largest are Medicare and Medicaid. Just these two programs make up almost a trillion dollars of funds. After watching a recent OIG hearing, I learned that more than 12% of Medicare and Medicaid funds are being used fraudulently. 12% might not seem like a lot but considering how large these health programs are, we are talking about billions of wasted taxpayer dollars.
This week, I have learned a lot about the culture of DC and its very rich history, but I have also learned some professional skills as well, particularly with practicing the art of networking. Last week during the Capital Scholars meeting with a staffer in Congresswomen Sinema’s office, I learned that with any career you have to get along well and get to the point quickly. The staffer mentioned how he can be in and out in a bar and have a meaningful conversation with another person of influence to get his point across in ten minutes. Although I have not yet reached that point, it is a goal I am working towards. Networking has been a recurrent theme throughout this program, and was also highlighted by a previous Capital Scholars alum as they were able to find full time careers by building relationships with people that they had talked to before. I have also learned the ins and outs of public transit and escalator etiquette (standing on the right side of the escalator if you will not be moving) and planning travel routes beforehand. I hope to learn even more as my Capital Scholar journey continues!