CAMH Interns Learn the Ropes of Healthcare Policy

September 2015
CAMH interns
Two MITRE interns learn about healthcare policy.

This summer, three graduate students started their journey into the world of policy development with internships at MITRE’s healthcare-focused FFRDC. At MITRE, interns gain real-world career experience while exploring and working in their areas of interest to develop their personal career paths. The CMS Alliance to Modernize Healthcare (CAMH) operated from MITRE's Baltimore site gives interns the opportunity to learn about and have an active role in rulemaking processes, responding to stakeholders, and fine-tuning healthcare policy.

"The primary goal of MITRE's intern program is to provide opportunities to up-and-coming talent to learn more about our work," says Ellen Sweeney, population health group leader who manages the Baltimore interns. "It's also a way for us to identify potential future staff. This year, we have three interns who have done a tremendous job of reaching across the company to different subject matter experts. They've talked to them about their individual interests and what a career at MITRE might look like for them."

The Intersection of Engineering and Policy

Adam Zoellner is pursuing a master's degree in public policy at Johns Hopkins University and earned his bachelor's in bioengineering at the University of Illinois. "The company is built around engineering and systems design, which was my academic background before pursuing a policy degree," Zoellner says. "But now, MITRE's work for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been growing. It really captured my attention because it blends engineering, systems design, and healthcare."

Zoellner says he was drawn to the broader scope of national health policy to solve problems of cost and access, as well as unaddressed chronic conditions. "It's an intersection between my work with medical devices and electronic medical records companies. Policy influences how companies develop and distribute their technologies."

According to Zoellner, his project focuses on improving quality of care and reducing costs. He's experimenting with different models of processes that could be expanded and used throughout the country.

Real Work, Real Opportunities

At MITRE, interns are involved just as much as regular employees.

"My managers have made it feel like it's not really an internship," says Ebele Anidi. "We’re very much a part of everything." Anidi earned his bachelor's degree in the history of science at Harvard University and is a master's student in public health at Johns Hopkins University. "They've provided constructive and useful feedback and have given me meaningful assignments."

For CAMH, Anidi works with the rulemaking process and responds to comments from the public on the federal register. "I’ve gotten a better understanding of federal policy and the federal rulemaking process," he says. "It's a system in which you're held accountable to what you're proposing." Anidi also greatly admires MITRE's approach. "MITRE truly is a company committed to developing thought leaders, developing knowledge as its main output."

Sedra Davis, a master's student at Carnegie Mellon University studying healthcare policy and management, feels her work on the public-comment project with Anidi is extremely valuable. "It's really important for stakeholders to follow up in quality reporting, so they need to be engaged earlier in the project. There has to be a dialogue. It can't just be someone coming up with a rule and telling people to follow it without hearing the questions or concerns of stakeholders."

Davis earned her bachelor's degree in studio art at Wheaton College (Mass.). She applies multi-factor, multi-dimensional thought processes to her work at MITRE.

"What I love about being here is there are many different ways of thinking brought to any single topic," Davis says. "There's this multi-disciplinary space that allows people to incorporate different approaches to problem solving. MITRE is very welcoming to creative minds and innovators, and I really appreciate the number of highly intelligent and passionate people here."

—by Emily Ready

(Editor's note: Emily Ready wrote this story while an intern in MITRE's Corporate Communications & Public Affairs division during summer 2015.)