Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)

Internship Location: Madison WI

Organization Type: State Government

Policy Areas: Health Policy: maternal and infant health, long-term care programming, Medicaid expansion, and cannabis legalization

As a Policy Intern at Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, I worked closely with policy advisors and directors in the Office of the Secretary on several projects that focused on maternal and infant health, long-term care programming, Medicaid expansion, and cannabis legalization. For each topic, I was tasked with researching programs and policies in other states and using that information to produce policy briefs for executive leadership. The briefs varied in terms of length and some included recommendations while others were purely informative and followed more of a literature review format. Because these deliverables were similar to policy memos, I was able to use the memo-writing skills from La Follette coursework, particularly drawing on one-page memo assignments since the briefs needed to be succinct and no longer than three pages. I learned a lot through my research, but some things that stand out to me include: (1) Black maternal and infant health disparities in Wisconsin, as well as in other states – along with existing legislation and programming aimed at reducing these disparities; (2) through all of the topics, I learned a lot about Medicaid, particularly Medicaid funding mechanisms and waivers; (3) how a state health agency is able to incorporate equity into the work it does, particularly in a contentious political climate, influenced by both state and federal politics. Most valuable to me were the earnest and vulnerable conversations about health equity that I was able to have with the people I worked closest with – especially when those conversations were incorporated into deliverables for leadership, and in some cases, were had directly with leadership. I would definitely recommend this internship for anyone who has never experienced working in state government and is interested in that, as well as how equity is incorporated into state-level policy work. The experience has given me a lot to think about with my future career in terms of how I might align my values with policy work that I feel instrumental in and that has measurable impacts on high-risk and vulnerable populations.