Student Named David A. Winston Health Policy Fellow
After graduating this May, Samantha Burkhart will head to Washington D.C. to begin the year-long fellowship, where she will work directly with policy-makers to learn more about health policy development in the public and private sectors.
Second-year Master of Public Health student Samantha Burkhart has been named a David A. Winston Health Policy Fellow.
The year-long fellowship offers postgraduate students with a minimum of a master’s degree in any discipline an opportunity to learn more about the process of health policy development by working directly with policy-makers in both the public and private sectors. Only two students are awarded the fellowship each year, and Burkhart is the second SPH student to be named a Winston fellow.
“I am incredibly honored to receive this fellowship,” says Burkhart, who is studying health policy and law at the School of Public Health. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn from experts in the field who are working to make healthcare better for people across the country. It is incredible to say I will start my career in a place surrounded by such vast knowledge and experience.”
After graduating this May, Burkhart will move to Washington D.C. to begin the fellowship. During the first three months, she will gain exposure through immersive visits to organizations, associations, and coalitions in the private sector, as well as policy development centers in Congress and the Administration. Throughout the final nine months, Burkhart will pursue a full-time placement with the guidance of the Winston Board of Directors in an area of her interest to gain an in-depth understanding of current policy issues in this focus area and invaluable, first-hand experience in policy making. Previous fellows have had a range of placements, from the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means to the offices of senators and other congressional leaders.
Burkhart is excited to bring her public health background and perspective to the fellowship, highlighting that she believes having more public health-minded individuals in positions where health policies are being made will lead to a more population-focused policy lens that will better support the health of all.
“People with a background in public health offer a perspective that keeps the public good at the forefront of all that they do,” she says. “It’s important that we bring more perspectives like this into these policy-making positions so we can create effective, evidence-based change.”
Throughout her time at SPH, Burkhart has served on the Student Senate and as the student representative on Governing Council, the senior governance of the School. In both positions, she says she has had the opportunity to flex her policy-making muscles by helping to make decisions and develop policies that would best represent SPH students’ needs. This experience taught her a lot about the importance of community-level policies—a perspective she hopes to carry with her throughout her time as a Winston fellow and into her future public health career.
“I am really invested in the mindset that if you want to make change at a national level, you should start in your own place of residence first,” she says. “Investing in your local community—the people you live, work, and engage with regularly—is really important because that is how we can create effective change. So often we get caught up in all that needs to be done on a national level, but I think there is so much we can do right here.”
Burkhart says that she came to SPH because she knew that the robust learning environment coupled with the School’s emphasis on practice would lead to great opportunities for her like the Winston fellowship.
“My time at SPH has been so impactful and has helped me lay an incredible foundation to build my career on,” she says. “I am looking forward to bringing the public health knowledge and skills that I have gained throughout my time here to D.C. and use them to help create really effective, population-focused change.”
The Winston Health Policy Fellowship was created in honor of the late David A. Winston, who played a significant role in shaping health policy in the US. Over the span of two decades, he served as chief deputy director of the California Department of Health, consultant to President Reagan’s administration, president of the National Committee for Quality Health Care, and senior corporate vice president for Voluntary Hospitals of America.