Wayne State’s National Science Policy Network chapter, Science Policy Network-Detroit (SciPol-Detroit), recently made a trip to the Michigan Capitol to advocate for science-based policies. SciPol-Detroit was originally formed in 2020 to mobilize Wayne State scientists and students interested in bridging the gap between science and policy-making.
On March 22, SciPol-Detroit gathered a group of 16 undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and medical students and faculty to meet with several state representatives and senators over the course of a daylong advocacy trip to Lansing. There, SciPol-Detroit members advocated for three bills that had been pre-selected by the student group. These included Senate Bills 26, 27 and 31, which aim to protect communities most vulnerable to air pollution, address mental versus physical health care disparities, and mandate lead testing for all children living in the state of Michigan, respectively.
“My experience in Lansing was a nice one. I got the chance to speak with a few state representatives and senators on why they should support specific bills introduced in the Senate. I was also able to tour the Capitol building and learn more about how both chambers of Congress work, as well as bridging the gap between science and policy,” said Azeez Ayantayo, a SciPol-Detroit member and current undergraduate mechanical engineering student.
The trip did not stop at meeting with lawmakers. SciPol-Detroit members were invited alongside Wayne State’s Government and Community Affairs staff to attend a Senate hearing for the Health Policy Committee and the Michigan House of Representatives floor session, where they were welcomed by the speaker.
“Being able to observe the Maternal-Infant Health session held by the Senate Health Policy Committee was the absolute highlight of my day. My Ph.D. research is focused on equitably improving health systems’ quality of care to eliminate racial disparities in neonatal health outcomes. This is my passion, and being able to have a firsthand experience of the process at a policy level was an experience I’ll never forget,” stated student Carlie Austin.
Members also received tours of the Capitol in between meetings with lawmakers.
Katie Dwyer, current president of SciPol-Detroit, said, “We were immersed in the history of Michigan’s legislature and gained more knowledge about the intricacies of lawmaking. WSU Vice President of Government and Community Affairs Patrick Lindsey did a phenomenal job escorting us through the Capitol to chronicle the history, culture and artwork present throughout the congressional buildings.
“I can’t thank members of SciPol-Detroit, Wayne State’s community affairs staff, and Michigan’s Health and Hospital Association enough for their efforts. With their help and guidance, our trip was a great success.”
The advocacy day was hosted by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA), a statewide leader that represents all community hospitals in Michigan to provide quality, cost-effective and accessible care. MHA welcomed the group with breakfast and words of encouragement before members departed for their meetings. It also hosted a career development and networking luncheon with health care professionals that spoke about their experience working at the intersection of health care and policy.
For those interested in MHA’s mission, Shreya Desai, previous SciPol-Detroit president and current MHA employee said, “MHA is offering a paid fellowship position that is unique for Wayne State students. This position is open to undergraduate or graduate students interested in health policy and policy research. If you are looking for hands-on experience and an opportunity that kick starts your career, this is the position for you.”
SciPol-Detroit continues to work closely with community partners to offer opportunities to the Wayne State community. On April 21, it hosted its first science fair with local Detroit high school students and lawmakers to encourage scientific communication across disciplines and backgrounds. Additionally, SciPol-Detroit is preparing for the group’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., which is expected to take place in June.