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Hello, world! My name’s James, and I am part of the (virtual) DukeEngage program in Washington D.C. I’m currently working with the Margolis Center for Health Policy researching health system innovations that address social determinants of health.

For the past month and a half, I have slept through alarms, gone on multiple hikes with my family, read through tons of articles, and attended countless Zoom calls. Like you, I’ve witnessed our country struggle through both a global pandemic and a much-needed reckoning on race in the midst of an election year. The policy challenges we face today are not new or unfamiliar in any way; they are the fruits of decades of inaction.

President Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force
Source – Politico: White House points fingers as it plots coronavirus stimulus

Our hospitals are financially strained due to decades of misaligned incentives emphasizing quantity over quality of care.1  Increasing politicization of science has reduced adherence to public health guidelines.2 Racial inequities in healthcare 3 and criminal justice 4 persist because of our inability to confront historical injustices and enact the necessary reforms.

Washington D.C.'s new Black Lives Matter display, painted this summer
Source – CNN: Washington, DC paints a giant ‘Black Lives Matter’ message on the road to the White House

So, what can a college intern do in the face of such broad, systematic reckonings?

It all starts with education. Take advantage of the free access Netflix has given to 13th on YouTube. Read the stories of your Black, Hispanic, Asian, international, LGBTQIA+, and indigenous peers. Reflect on whether your workplace has made efforts toward improving equity.

Then, take action. Have those tough discussions with your colleagues, friends, and family. Send that email to Duke administration or your representative of Congress. Demand concrete steps over vague goals. Make 2020 the year of measured progress instead of perpetual crisis.