Nursing and Health Science Doctoral Candidate Receives Senate Fellowship

Posted: February 22, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

Nancy L. Falk, a doctoral candidate in George Mason’s College of Nursing and Health Science (CNHS), began working last September at the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.Mex.) as the John Heinz Senate Fellow for 2004-05. Created in 1992, the prestigious Heinz fellowship, named for the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz, is dedicated to continuing his work to improve the quality of life for elderly Americans through sound public policy and legislative action.

Falk arrived at Mason two years ago with an interest in the intersection of aging, employment, and health-especially the medical, psychosocial, and economic factors that impact older workers health and well-being. During her first year in the doctoral program, she worked as a graduate research assistant with Elizabeth Chong, associate professor of nursing and health science, on a public health project. Falk also worked with Frieda Butler, professor of nursing and health sciences, on a gerontology, end-of-life project. In addition, she notes that she has received significant guidance and direction from professors Jeanne Sorrell, Ronnie Feeg, and Carole Jennings. These experiences helped her stand out as an applicant for the Heinz Fellowship.

After being selected as a Heinz Fellow, Falk interviewed with approximately eight different Congressional offices and both Republicans and Democrats in order to find the right office to work during the one-year fellowship. In the end, Bingaman’s office provided a good fit for many reasons. Falk counts these as a bipartisan, results-oriented approach toward work; a focus on achieving positive outcomes that make a difference in people’s lives; and the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of aging and health challenges in a state with a diverse population that includes Native Americans, Hispanics, and rural and low-income senior citizens and their families.

Bingaman’s office provides Falk with opportunity to work on the issues that she is most interested in. She works with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, as well as the Committee on Finance, which has jurisdiction in the areas of Social Security and Medicare.

As part of her everyday responsibilities, Falk researches and develops policy positions or recommendations on a variety of legislative and nonlegislative issues concerning health and aging, meets with advocacy groups, prepares materials for debate on the Senate floor, and builds support for legislation on health and aging sponsored by Bingaman. She is interested in analyzing potential solutions that will ensure that the United States maintains a workforce of health professionals that are capable of meeting the needs of society, particularly as large segments of the population advance in age. During her fellowship, Falk will also travel to New Mexico, where she will meet with key aging and health professionals to learn more about the challenges Bingaman’s constituency currently faces in regard to health and aging issues.

As for her goals for the future, Falk, who received a BS in Nursing from Alfred University and an MBA from the University at Buffalo-State University of New York, says, “My primary career objective is to be an effective professional with a strong and integrated working knowledge of the research, practice, and policy arms of the aging community. The George Mason academic experience will provide a solid foundation upon which to reach these goals. The Heinz fellowship will provide me with a greater understanding of the role of public policy, which will enable me to do my small part in making life better for aging adults and their families, at the local, state, national, and possibly international levels.”

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