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Bridging Health Policy and Advocacy

daniela puente featured image copy of congressional spotlight interviewThis week, we spoke to Daniela Puente, Legislative Fellow for the Office of Representative Tony Cárdenas and CHCI Health Postgraduate Fellow.

Can you tell me about your career path that you’ve taken that’s led you to where you are now?

Volunteer work and different community experiences during high school taught me the importance of health access and the struggles that many populations face receiving care. The honors program at Howard Payne University gave me the opportunity to study biology alongside public policy and international business. In my educational journey to understand how health is impacted by policy, I found the field of public health. I pursued a master’s in public health to establish myself firmly at the intersection of community health and policy. My time at Syracuse University gave me the opportunity to engage in student government, diversity and inclusion work, and issue advocacy while studying global and local health trends. Mentors from both of my schools shared post-grad opportunities and that’s how I found the fellowship program with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). Through CHCI’s fellowship program, I was able to work as a legislative fellow in the Office of Representative Tony Cárdenas.

Which specific policy areas or legislative issues are you most passionate about, and how do you stay informed and engaged in those areas?

From the moment I became interested in the health field, helping communities in need access vital care and health services has been the driving force behind my commitment. I am passionate about health equity and addressing the disparities and barriers to care underrepresented groups face. As a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, I also dedicate time to engaging in immigration policy. I’ve found that it’s helpful to find multiple avenues to be informed whether it’s podcasts, newsletters, live news, or briefings. Being on Capitol Hill has also introduced me to a wide array of policy experts, community advocates, and other stakeholders that help inform me on emerging policy issues.

Describe a challenging or rewarding project that significantly influenced your growth as a professional. How did you handle the challenge, and what did you learn from the experience?

In Spring 2023, I served as the chair of the Take Back the Night planning committee at Syracuse University. As committee chair, I was responsible for leading student and staff volunteers in planning the program, march, and speak out. Leading the committee helped me develop advocacy, communication, and coalition building skills while engaging in an issue area that I am passionate about. This opportunity to support survivors and unite the campus community to call for an end to sexual, relationship and other forms of violence was deeply rewarding.

What advice would you give to individuals who aspire to work on Capitol Hill?

Talk to people! Go to the free events that pop up on LinkedIn and in your email! You never know who may be sitting next to you at an event or conference. I would also say to have clearly defined interests but flexibility in the opportunities you are open to. The path to the Hill looks different for everyone and that’s a good thing!

Be present and be respectful because your background and experience are most helpful when you’ve established your ability to connect with others well.

What do you believe sets Capitol Hill apart as a unique work environment, and how do you navigate its challenges in your everyday work?

The fast pace of Capitol Hill is certainly a big driver of the unique environment. You are facing deadlines and emerging priorities that require your immediate attention often on short notice. The magnitude of what those emerging deadlines and priorities can result in also adds a level of pressure that can be challenging. It’s been an awesome learning experience to work with the staff in my office and see the different ways they navigate meetings, hearings, and other day to day business to best support the member and represent the community they work for. Having the support of CHCI and other Latino leaders that have stepped up as mentors has also helped me successfully navigate the challenges of working on Capitol Hill.

Word association, what is the first word that comes to mind for each of these?

Policy – Health

Networking – Confidence

Writing Skills – Practice

Working on the Hill – Challenging

Leadership Connect – Opportunity

To be featured or learn more, reach out to Gabi Thomas, and spread the word to any colleagues who would be interested.

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Gabi Thomas

Gabi joined Leadership Connect as a Research Analyst and is now the Legislature Outreach Liaison.