Addressing Arizona Public Policy

Jen Martinez
Emphasis Area
Public Health

Jen Martinez served on the Health and Human Services Committee in the Arizona State Senate.

How did you get your internship and why did you choose this experience?

I received a letter in the mail that provided information about the Arizona Legislative Internship Program because of my strong academic performance and major. I was intrigued by the opportunity presented in the letter, but fearful of rejection. Luckily, I put my fears aside and applied online one week before the deadline. A few weeks after I applied, I received an email that I was selected for the first round of interviews. The first interview was held in-person and on-campus with several individuals from the State Capital. The proceeding interviews I had were for the House of Representatives and Senate, and with the Governor's office at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. After a second interview, the Senate Research Staff offered me the internship opportunity.

I decided to participate in the Arizona Legislative Internship Program because I believed it would broaden my transdisciplinary education to see how healthcare is intertwined with the legislative process. It is a goal of mine to be a physician and I recognize how important it is to understand healthcare from a variety of perspectives to better understand the complexities and shortcomings of the system that contributes to health problems patients deal with on a daily basis. I was motivated to apply to this program because I was curious to see how our Legislators approach our shared problems from a legislative perspective and the types of solutions they propose. I was further motivated to choose this internship program as politics and the legislative process has always piqued my interest, and being able to be fully immersed in the process was an opportunity I knew I might not have again in my pre-medicine academic career.

What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience? 

I staffed the Health and Human Services Committee as a Senate Research Intern. My day-to-day looked different as the legislative session proceeded, but my ultimate responsibility was to conduct research on bills that I was assigned or to gather knowledge on the inquiries of the Arizona State Senators. I created fact sheets that detailed relevant background knowledge on bills being heard, as well as summarized the changes being made in the bills. The fact sheets I created needed to be specifically formatted, written, and distributed in a nonpartisan fashion as they would be made available, in print and online, to the public, staff, and legislators. As bills moved through the process, I had to track and update the fact sheets as amendments or vetoes came. Additionally, as my committee received and produced fact sheets and amendments, I distributed hard copies around to each of the offices and desks of the Arizona Senate by a hard deadline. I loved the urgency of the distribution process because we were often swamped with bill heavy committees that required long nights, teamwork, and time management skills. Aside from creating and distributing fact sheets, I would also need to present each bill in the Health and Human Services Committee as well as in both party's caucus meetings. While at the podium I needed to be prepared to answer any questions from the Senators about the language and background of the bills.

What new skills did you practice and develop in this internship?

This internship allowed me to grow as a professional and hone in on several skills: adaptability, research and analysis, teamwork, and public speaking. At the start of my internship and onboarding process, I felt as though I was drinking from a firehose of new information. I had to learn how to adapt and learn on the fly. Due to the unpredictable nature of the legislative process, I was stretched to change pace quickly and efficiently to ensure our deadlines were met. Within this unpredictable and fast-paced environment, I was working alongside my supervisors and fellow interns, which taught me the importance of working on a team to accomplish our goals and share knowledge with each other. 

Additionally, I gained the ability to conduct research on unfamiliar topics and successfully share that knowledge through unbiased writing and analysis. Amongst the many skills I was able to gain from this experience, public speaking was one of the most important. Throughout my education so far, assignments that required this scale of public speaking had been slim to none. I used to cringe and get nauseous at the mere thought of speaking to an audience. However, each week when I presented in front of Legislators, I gained confidence in my ability to speak in front of large audiences and rid my fear of public speaking. 

How was the internship related to your Applied Humanities degree?

This internship related to my Applied Humanities major and Public Health emphasis because I  participated in the unique type of transdisciplinary work that my degree champions. As an aspiring physician, a legislative internship seemed far removed from my professional and educational path, however, I learned how intertwined healthcare and public health are in the legislative realm. I was able to transfer knowledge from my STEM classes to research the bills I was assigned while at the same time witnessing issues discussed in my health disparities classes come up in committee discussions. Throughout my internship I discovered how my Applied Humanities degree enabled me to connect and apply knowledge from a variety of fields and see the interconnectedness of my education reflected in the complexity of real world problems.

What was your favorite part of your internship? 

My favorite part of the internship was the connections I made. From my supervisors to my peers, I gained knowledge from each individual I came in contact with. My supervisor boosted my confidence by giving me the tools and guidance to be successful in a stressful and intimidating environment. From his oversight, I was able to continuously improve my weaknesses and expand on my strengths. My fellow research interns provided me with dependability and a place to bounce around and combine ideas. Additionally, I found inspiration from Staff and Legislators in their dedication to being a public servant and seeing the pride they have in their place at the Senate.

How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future?

My internship has influenced my plans for my future by further reinforcing my desire to become a physician. During my time at the Senate I witnessed first-hand how legislation plays a role in healthcare. I believe it is important for physicians to advocate for their patients in their offices as well as at legislative committee hearings. During my internship I was able to see healthcare practitioners advocating for their patients by bringing forward issues to their legislators, hear directly from legislators who are also active practitioners, and listen to practitioners testifying their personal insights at committee hearings. I aspire to be an advocate for my patients' health in and out of a hospital setting. Through this internship I was able to gain invaluable insight on how patient advocacy needs to extend into the legislative process.