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Shaping Tomorrow's Healthcare: Adventures in Advocacy

fortune chimaobi featured image copy of congressional spotlight interviewThis week, we spoke to Fortune Chimaobi, Congressional Health Policy Fellow for the Office of Representative Terri A. Sewell (D-AL, 7).

Can you tell me about your career path that has led you to where you are now?

It’s a full circle moment for me to be honest. I started off my path towards medical school with hopes of being a medical doctor studying viruses. My family has a background in health, so it was natural for me to want to be a doctor. My experiences throughout my undergraduate years were not focused on the health space but the public health space. I did an internship with Duke that had me live the life of a first-year medical student for two months. This was my first exposure to health policy workshops. I followed this internship with another one through Volunteers Around the World. This internship exposed me to harsh conditions outside the US. I taught an underserved community how to practice good hygienic habits. These two internships helped get me to start questioning why we have so many health issues and disparities. It helped me question if going the doctor route would be suit me or if I should start looking at the bigger picture from a systematic standpoint. That thinking led me to pivot towards public health. Since the transition, I completed my public health master’s program in Health Management and Policy, completed an internship dealing with childhood mental health, and started a fellowship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

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

Anything involving healthcare is the policy area I am most passionate about. Quality, access, and affordability of healthcare are the factors I, along with my office, am looking to address. To stay informed and engaged in the health space I, along with my office’s health policy advisor, handle the health portfolio of my congresswoman. Using my resources like CRS, stakeholders, and peer reviewed research are other ways I stay engaged and informed.

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

This is a dynamic system. Politics govern everything. From whom controls the majority, to if a budget has been passed, there are internal and external factors that affect your (and your office’s) ability to work, what you should be working on, etc. The best way to navigate is to stay engaged and informed with the news. I also just keep my head down and focus on my tasks, especially those that have deadlines.

At the end of the day, we work for our constituents, not for each other.

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?

Drafting my first set of briefings and memos. It challenged my writing abilities because I had to not only write from the viewpoint of my congresswoman, but also had to write in a style Dr. Blackmore was comfortable with. Dr. Blackmore is an experienced writer with her Ph.D. and holds a high bar for what she considers to be good writing. The experience was rewarding! Not only did my writing prowess expand, but I also felt a sense of my work making a meaningful impact. It served me as a reminder how my role not only contributes to the office but to the constituents we represent.

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

Come here with your principles grounded. Come here with an open mind. Be okay with differences in opinions. Be prepared to network like your life depended on it. I say this because your network will more than likely determine how far you can go on Capitol Hill. Last thing to note, please be prepared to figure out how to balance your work life and personal life. That balance also will help determine your mental health. Capitol Hill is not for everyone but my goodness it is an experience I will never forget.

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

Policy – Nuanced 

Networking – Essential 

Writing Skills – Imperative  

Working on the Hill – Rewarding 

Leadership Connect – Resourceful 

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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Gabrielle Thomas

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