“From understanding the behind the scenes legislative process, to witnessing the public health efforts on the Hill, this experience changed the trajectory of my life by motivating me and providing me with insight I would have never grasped elsewhere,” USF College of Public Health undergraduate Juan Sanchez said.
Sanchez completed a congressional internship over the summer in Washington, D.C. The program called College to Congress was founded by University of South Florida alumna Audrey Henson.
College to Congress places low-income college students in congress via internships and covers all the expenses that are incurred.
He worked for Congresswoman Nanette Barragán from California’s 44th District. She is a leader and advocate for environmental issues that impact disadvantaged community members and health care reform for those who need it most by increasing access.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the impact that politics and health policy have on the health outcomes of our citizens,” Sanchez said. “For this reason, I wanted to intern in Congress and learn about policy making and the inner works of politics, specifically with health care.”
Sanchez said being accepted into the College to Congress program has been a blessing for him. He is extremely grateful to everyone involved with making this once in a lifetime experience possible.
“I hope that I can look back ten years down the road and say that I have established friendships with the people I interacted with during my College to Congress journey,” Sanchez said. “I am positive that this opportunity will change the trajectory of my life by inspiring me to become the bridge between health policy and medicine and yielding a positive change in the health of people from all around the world.”
Sanchez learned about public health through the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which is a 10-year full ride scholarship giving him the opportunity to obtain my bachelors, masters and doctorate in public health.
“The most interesting aspect of public health to me is the ability to have an impact in the lives of those who need it most,” he said. “As a first-generation college student who was raised in a Latino household where my parents live paycheck to paycheck, I am motivated to make sure families have the basic needs to overcome health inequities.”
Born in Medellin, Colombia, Sanchez immigrated to the U.S. with his family at a young age. He was raised in Easton, Pa. and later moved to Tampa, Fla. to study at USF where he is currently majoring in public health with a minor in chemistry.
“I could not be any happier with my courses, the professors, guidance by my academic advisor and the exceptional opportunities that I have been exposed to at the COPH. It was exactly what I was looking for!” he said.
Sanchez said he is proud of representing the COPH for two terms as a senator in USF’s Student Government, as well as participating in the Status of Latinos Presidential Committee, Latin American Student Association, and Undergraduate Public Health Student Association.
Along with classwork, Sanchez also works as a patient observer/sitter at Moffitt Cancer Center’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.
He applies what he learns at the COPH to his work by trying to understand the needs of patients and brainstorming ways to support those affected by cancer and their families in the future.
“My dream job is to be a medical doctor who leads the movement to bridge public health and medicine, by reforming health care in the U.S. and the rest of the world,” he said. “I want to help incentivize prevention of disease and promote offering the basic necessary tools to make healthy decisions for everyone, regardless of income, background and beliefs.”
Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health
Tags: Audrey Henson, Capitol Hill, College to Congress, congress, Gates Millennium Scholarship, internship, Juan Sanchez, Moffitt Cancer Center, undergraduate education, Undergraduate Public Health Student Association, Washington