A Capitol rotation

Jackie Green and Sharon Cooper

While in medical school at Emory, Jackie Green (left) worked as a health policy intern at the Capitol, guided by Representative Sharon Cooper, who herself holds a masters in nursing.

Most fourth-year medical students expect their schedule to include rotations in a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital.

But Jackie Green, a 2009 graduate of Emory School of Medicine, had something a little different in mind. She spent six weeks of her last semester of medical school at the Georgia State Capitol.

"Jackie was the first person with the insight to ask for a rotation at the Capitol," says Sharon Cooper, Georgia Representative of District 41, who supervised Green as a health policy intern in the Georgia House of Representatives. It was a first not just for Green but for the medical school as well.

Cooper chairs the Georgia House Health and Human Services Committee, making her an ideal candidate to direct Green beneath Georgia's gold dome. A former college professor with a masters in nursing, Rep. Cooper wanted Green to get the most out of her time in the General Assembly. With Cooper's hands-on guidance, Green got a chance to work on several health policy bills and helped with the successful passage of the Medical Practice Act, which clarifies the roles and responsibilities of medical professionals.

While working with legislators on health policy was new to Green, working to influence policy was not. Previously she had served as an officer in HealthSTAT, a student-run, nonprofit group that influences health legislation. When HealthSTAT took an active role in an effort to keep Grady Hospital open, Green helped organize students for a campaign that drew attention to the hospital's plight. (See Emory Health, summer 2008.)

This passion for effecting positive change in health policy made Green's time spent with Rep. Cooper more than a learning experience. "It was great for me because I was invested in the policy decisions," says Green, who is now continuing her education as an internal medicine resident at Emory.

The precedent set by Green has paved the way for other Emory medical students to complete a health policy rotation with the legislature, underscored by a request from Cooper to work with additional Emory students.


Arthur Kellerman: It’s the difference between watching a play and participating in the play as both a stage hand and member of the cast.


The new Emory health policy internship mirrors a long-standing program offered by the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation, which gives mid-career and senior health professionals an opportunity to work on health policy at a federal level. Arthur Kellermann, Emory's associate dean of health policy in the medical school, participated in the RWJ Health Policy Fellowship as a member of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He considers the knowledge gained from such programs to be crucial to medical professionals, giving a three-dimensional view of health policy.

"It's the difference between watching a play and participating in the play as both a stage hand and member of the cast," he says.

Although Georgia's Congressional delegation includes three congressmen with health care backgrounds (Representatives Tom Price and Phil Gingrey are both physicians, and Rep. John Linder is a dentist), most health care professionals shun or ignore health policy. Green's work with Rep. Cooper affirms what Kellermann describes as a duty for physician leaders to play a key role in shaping health policy for the benefit of patients, the state, and the nation. Now that Green has set the pace for future Emory medical students, there is hope that future generations of doctors in Georgia will be ready, able, and willing to do just that. —Stone Irvin

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