NEWS | June 27, 2012

UC Davis nursing, medicine scholars participate in first multi-institution collaborative policy program in the nation's capitol


Nursing, medicine and health-care scholars from UC Davis, the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University participated last week in a first-of-its-kind multi-institution program in Washington, D.C., to develop health-care professionals' leadership skills and policy expertise.

The Leadership Education and Policy Development Program, led by Mary Lou de Leon Siantz, a professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, and Robert Waste, the assistant director of government and community relations at UC Davis Health System, brought an interprofessional group of eight students and scholars from three different academic institutions to the nation's capitol for a policy-intensive seminar.

Photo of LEAP participants in Washington, D.C., copyright UC Regents
Participants in the Leadership Education and Policy Development Program visit with U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, center.

"This is a time of historic change in health-care in our country," de Leon Siantz said. "This program equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to use their clinical and research expertise to conduct outreach to communities and elected officials, inform health policy and improve health care."  

Participants in the week-long program included three doctoral students in Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, one Internal Medicine resident at UC Davis School of Medicine, one Primary Care Outcomes Research Fellow in UC Davis Health System's Department of Family and Community Medicine, one postdoctoral scholar from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and two Stanford University undergraduates who are public policy interns with the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Program participants learned as teams, across disciplines, in keeping with UC Davis Health System's interprofessional approach to health education. 

De Leon Siantz created the program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, where she was on the faculty prior to coming to the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. This was the first time the program included scholars from multiple academic institutions.

The program included presentations by leaders and staff of the American Academy of Nursing, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Dental Education Association.

The group visited the Health Resources and Services Administration--the main agency of the federal government charged with improving access to health-care services for uninsured and medically vulnerable individuals--and learned how the agency implements health policy. Students also visited the Pew Hispanic Center to learn how data is used to inform policy.

For Barbara Hanna, a doctoral student at the School of Nursing, the trip provided insight into the great complexity of the institutions and processes that are part of the nation's health-care system. 

"I am excited about future opportunities that I will have to influence health care on a larger, federal basis, in collaboration with colleagues from different disciplines," Hanna said.

The National Institute of Health Clinical Center hosted the students for an afternoon to help them understand how health policy drives research funding and supports opportunities for researchers in a variety of levels at the National Institute of Health. Students also spoke with scientists who work in their areas of research interest. The clinical center is the nation's largest hospital devoted entirely to clinical research.

For Alicia Gonzalez-Flores, an Internal Medicine resident, the program confirmed her professional interest in health policy.

"In the past, I had some interest in health policy, but I didn't know how to acquire more skills and whether I would really like it," Gonzalez-Flores said. "This one-week intensive program really strengthened my goal to pursue a degree in health policy or public policy."

The group participated in leadership education led by de Leon Siantz, who taught via telecommunications technology from California. De Leon Siantz is nationally recognized for her work to prepare health professionals for leadership and policy. The students and scholars also received a legislative overview by Waste, who explained the recent history of how the Affordable Care Act became law. Together, de Leon Siantz and Waste helped the group understand how to use their research and clinical expertise to inform policy makers and provide leadership that transforms health care.

The scholars also met with their representatives on Capitol Hill and with Terrance W. Gainer, the United States Senate Sergeant at Arms--the protocol and chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. Senate.

In addition to seminars and meetings, students completed readings and a policy analysis paper as part of the credit-bearing program. The course's educational benefits will continue back in Sacramento, where the California-based scholars will engage in follow-up projects focused on state health issues.

About the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis
The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis was established in March 2009 through a $100 million commitment from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the nation's largest grant for nursing education. The vision of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is to transform health care through nursing education and research. Through nursing leadership, the school discovers knowledge to advance health, improve quality of care and health outcomes, and inform health policy. The school's first programs, a doctoral and a master's degree program, opened in fall 2010. Additional students and programs will be phased in over the next decade. The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is part of UC Davis Health System, an integrated, academic health system encompassing the UC Davis School of Medicine, the 619-bed-acute-care hospital and clinical services of UC Davis Medical Center and the 1000-member physician group known as the UC Davis Medical Group. For more information, visit