University Honors students are encouraged to stretch themselves and appreciate a broader context for the knowledge of their chosen disciplines. For students in the humanities, this might mean digging into the intersection of their interests with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For students in STEM fields, this might mean seeking to understand the social, artistic, and philosophical impacts of the work they are doing. In the post below, University Scholar Sunjay Letchuman ’22, a sophomore Business Honors major from Shreveport, LA explains his interest in public policy.
I was only 8 years old, but I remember the 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain being riveting. I insisted on going to the polls with my parents to learn more about the voting process and was elated to enter the voting booth with my dad. After he chose his candidate, I joyfully pressed the big, red “Cast Ballot” button. It was the first time I felt like I was a “part” of the election process, and my interest in politics only grew from there. Politics in the United States has become incredibly polar and divisive, particularly in recent years. In our binary ‘Republican vs. Democrat’ system, Americans quickly choose sides and often offer little room for a middle ground. Political rhetoric has changed substantially just in my lifetime from former President Obama saying, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America–there is the United States of America” to President Trump emboldening a crowd to chant “Send her back” to four American congresswomen of color. Beyond this apparent dissonance, however, there is an incredible potential for positive change held within our government, which is what truly invigorates me about public policy.
To me, the United States will always be the greatest country in the world, but there is certainly room for improvement, which is why I want to enter the field of public policy. Specifically, I am intrigued by healthcare in the United States. The United States healthcare system is incredibly expensive compared to other nations. We spend over $3.5 trillion on healthcare every year, which is around 18% of our entire GDP. What is interesting and troubling, however, is that our system does not provide the highest quality of care in the world, despite how much we spend. Changing our system is complicated because of the personal nature of healthcare, and it is difficult to find the balance between providing care to the American people and controlling the high costs associated with care delivery. I aspire to work towards finding that balance through becoming a physician in Congress. Initially, it may seem like a crazy proposition, but I believe that this is not the case. Looking back at history, 5 signers of the Declaration of Independence were physicians, and moving forward to today, 16 members of the United States Congress are physicians. Physicians are at the front line of care delivery, and I believe that doctors are able to bring their practical expertise to the table in terms of policy change. To me, practicing medicine is personal and special, but leading healthcare policy change for over 300 million Americans by using knowledge gained from practicing medicine is extraordinary.
My interest for healthcare policy led me to create a blog titled “Caring for Healthcare” (http://www.healthcarebysunjay.blog) where I discuss hot-topic healthcare issues, such as universal healthcare, paid family leave, and insurance companies. For my blog, I have also interviewed people who have extensive experience in the healthcare field, such as Dr. Patrick Conway, the former CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, and Andrew Fisher, the 2018 U.S. Army Hero of Military Medicine. My passion for healthcare policy has also opened the door for me to participate in Texas A&M’s Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP).
Through PPIP, I will be an intern in Washington D.C. this summer where I will hopefully work in the office of a congressman who has a focus on healthcare policy. An opportunity like this would not have been possible without the incredible connections that Texas A&M has to congressional offices in D.C., and I hope to make the most of my experience and further my understanding of how our healthcare system may be improved.