Alumna on front line of health care reform debates

Less than a year after graduating from Penn State, Devon Trolley has found herself in the middle of the most heated political debates in recent years -- health care reform. She works with the health staff of one of the major proponents of reform, Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), to prepare background and preparatory materials for a variety of health reform topics.

The debates on health care reform are “fast-paced and intense,” Trolley said. “There are different topics popping up all the time, and Senator Rockefeller needs to have all of the most updated, relevant information to make decisions.” Every senator has a person on staff to address health issues, but Senator Rockefeller has a larger health staff because of his position as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Health in the Senate Finance Committee.  

Trolley, who graduated from the dual master of health administration/bachelor of science in Health Policy and Administration degree program from Penn State in 2009, was accepted to one of the most prestigious fellowships available to students interested in a career in health policy, the David A. Winston Health Policy Fellowship.

For her fellowship, Trolley is living and working in Washington, D.C., for a year. The first three months were spent getting an overview of health policy by meeting with different private and public stakeholders across the political spectrum, and for the remaining nine months, she was able to choose a placement to get first-hand experience working in health policy.  She chose to work in the office of Rockefeller.

“I wanted to work with Senator Rockefeller because he has been dedicated throughout his career to improving the health care system,” says Trolley. “He is very active on the issue, and I really respect where his priorities are in trying to fix the many problems that are plaguing our system now.  I’ve learned an incredible amount from his experienced health team about the legislative process and health policy.”

Rockefeller’s health staff is responsible for updating him on active health policy issues; working with the staff of other senators to create health legislation; meeting and communicating with West Virginia constituents about health care; and preparing the senator for hearings, negotiations and votes. Trolley supports these efforts by researching upcoming health care issues and analyzing past and current pieces of health legislation. She has looked into issues ranging from existing health insurance regulations to how proposed legislation could impact access to and quality of health care.

Trolley said that Penn State’s Department of Health Policy and Administration (HPA) has helped her prepare for this role.

“The industry exposure that the HPA programs offer has been really useful,” she said. “I came into this fellowship having a broad perspective of health care providers, and I draw from those perspectives daily when I look at the potential impact of different policies.”

Trolley said that being so close to health care reform has shed a new light on the issue.

“It’s surprising how politicized certain issues have become,” she says. “The debates quickly become a lightning rod for ideology, and people can have such political motives. It’s really fascinating, and sometimes really frustrating, to watch.”

Trolley’s fellowship ends in June 2010, and she has an option to extend it until August.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010