I started working at Physicians for Social Responsibility last Tuesday. Physicians for Social Responsibility is a special interest group devoted to nuclear disarmament and environmental sustainability that targets health professionals to educate the people about these issues. By increasing the information the public has about the impacts on human health of environmental degradation or a nuclear exchange, PSR aims to shift the perception of these issues from one of apathy to one of active concern. Stigmatizing nuclear weapons and environmentally damaging practices will, over time, spill upward into a change in the consensus in Washington, and a change in public policy.
The office is a small place – my internship is on the disarmament side of PSR’s agenda, working with the Security team that ballooned to four people over the summer (above is the entire internship staff). Though small organizations aren’t considered as prestigious as a spot on the hill, I don’t regret my decision to intern here. Because of the small size, I’ve had the opportunity to take on a wide variety of tasks, from researching legislation and emailing members of Congress to putting together advocacy materials and fact sheets about nuclear weapons for the entire organization to use on the ground.
As a former high school debater, a position at Physicians for Social Responsibility feels strangely appropriate – many of our arguments were centered around nuclear war and policies that may or may not trigger one. Researching for PSR’s positions has been like diving back into file updates (though now my work is a lot more centered in reality than in the past). I feel like my skills carry over really well into this job, and, in turn, the position will make me a better policy researcher.
Finding this internship was an interesting process – the summer is an especially competitive time for internships in Washington D.C. so I needed to apply to over thirty different positions before even getting an interview. If anyone considering the Illinois in Washington program reads this post, you should probably know that sometimes you may come very close to the line when arranging your internship for the semester. That being said, don’t let this discourage you – Illinois in Washington prides itself on always having its students find placements, and though I initially doubted this, it becomes easier to make progress as time goes on. More and more interns make their decisions on where they will work, leaving a wide array of organizations and employers who still need workers – this city practically runs on free labor.
Second, don’t be afraid to go for a position at a small place! I went into this hoping I would work for my congresswoman, but, like I said before, there are serious benefits to small-scale work. You get a lot more time working with your supervisors when you’re not one of fifteen or twenty interns in the office, and they’re also more invested in you, because you make up a larger part of the staff.