Although I only lived for a few years in nearby Montgomery County when I was little, I haven’t found a city quite like D.C. I never understood exactly what it was about Washington that left such a permanent impact on me until this time around. In the past two weeks, through our various DukeEngage activities as well as my own adventures, I fell in love with all the diversity, culture, history, and endless opportunities D.C. has to offer. Being in the nation’s capital is truly special. Everyday I still think about the fact that we live mere blocks away from the White House and we are able to go for walks on the National Mall. There have also been experiences that have pushed me slightly out of my comfort zone but have been especially eye-opening. These short two weeks have already been packed with so many memorable experiences and I can’t imagine what the rest of the summer has in store.
I have also come to enjoy the 9-5 hustle and bustle, joining in on the fast-paced flow of business-clad workers on the way to and from work each day. My internship is in the policy branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. I have always had an interest in genetics, and with the recent groundbreaking discoveries in the field such as CRISPR, genetics has been at the center of many conversations concerning the future of medicine and healthcare. However, this internship has made me really think about the complex and extensive ethical, legal, and social implications of these scientific discoveries for the first time.
Having not had much exposure to public policy before, I was a little worried that I lacked the necessary skill set going in. What I quickly realized though, was that everyone around me had a lot of knowledge and experience that they were all willing to share as long as I was willing to ask. For example, one of the first projects I was given was helping write a guide notice for an institute policy change. Not knowing where to start, I asked my direct supervisor to give me a brief history and overview of the policy and asked for recommended readings. Although I am still not as familiar with the material as others in the office who have worked on it for weeks, I have been able to be a better contributor and active participant in meetings. Over the next few weeks of the internship, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the work and mission of this institute and form meaningful relationships with my coworkers.