Lobby Day at the Capitol
It was late February, and the weather was the kind that can sap your spirits—gray skies, with snow on the ground and more on its way. But for eight first-year SPH students who spent the day in Lansing, it was a day of hope and high energy. Their goal: to explain to members of the Michigan House of Representatives—110 in all, 28 of them newly elected—what public health is, how it's distinct from medicine, and why it's critical to Michiganders.
Equipped with talking points and informational packets, the students—all of them first-year health management and policy students and all participants in the school's new Public Health Advocacy Clinic—spent the day meeting with legislators and staff members, listening to state Medicaid Director Stephen Fitton testify about Medicaid expansion, and absorbing the splendors of the state's capitol building, built in 1878. "It was," said Tiffany Huang, who helped coordinate the trip, "an opportunity for us to learn how accessible legislators really are, to learn that they're actually there to listen to us, and that as students we can help influence policy. It was an opportunity for us to learn not to be afraid to ask for things."
SPH students go to Lansing several times a year to advocate on behalf of public health issues, says Jenifer Martin, U-M SPH director of government relations and director of the advocacy clinic. "It's important for students to engage in real-world experiential learning, to apply what they're learning in the classroom while honing their professional skills in written and oral communication."
In a gesture reminiscent of British landscape architect Russel Page's dictum that "to plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world," members of the SPH Health Behavior and Health Education Student Association planted 172 trees in Detroit last fall in collaboration with the nonprofit Greening of Detroit.