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PMF-STEM

By Maureen Clark, MPH, Public Health Analyst, National Cancer Institute, PMF Class of 2015

This is the time of year that I recall with chagrin how I got my start in the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. The applications were due, and I applied at the last minute, the day of the deadline. While I do not recommend that strategy, I do, without reservation, recommend the PMF program.

The application period for this prestigious, competitive program for recent graduates of post-graduate programs is open now through October 13, 2015. If you’re just learning about the program or are on the fence about whether to apply, let me tell you more about my experience.

After being selected as a PMF-STEM finalist -- a track focused on science, technology, engineering, and math -- I was selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NCI has been a perfect fit because of my educational background in public health, English, and pre-medical studies, as well as my passion for NCI’s mission: to conduct and support research, training, and programs aimed at reducing the cancer rate.

The PMF program looks a little bit different at each agency. At NCI, PMFs typically complete four to six rotations across the organization. My first rotation was in one of NCI’s program offices, where I worked on strategic planning and the identification of scientific trends related to health communications research. And right now I am in NCI’s Office of Government and Congressional Relations, which serves as the liaison between Congress and NCI’s scientific staff. Each experience presents unique challenges, but all of the offices have treated me as a vital member of the team.

PMFs are also required to complete 80 training hours per year over the course of the two-year program. I have participated in training specific to my current work, as well as a special session on leadership in the style of George Washington at his historic estate in Mount Vernon. I also had the chance to attend sessions on innovation, held at the White House, and on Congress, held on Capitol Hill. There are also extremely helpful informational interviews. During a typical session, I sit down with a colleague at NIH and ask as many questions as I can to learn about his or her career.

The fellowship has provided me with an insider’s view of how the Federal Government operates. I’ve watched the budgeting process and have come to understand the priorities that shape NIH’s mission. And my external rotation -- one of the key features of the PMF program -- in the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Communications gave me a broad perspective on opportunities across government agencies.

I still have another year left in the fellowship, but because of the experiences I’ve had, I have some ideas about what’s next for me. I’d like to continue to address health disparities, particularly as they relate to health literacy and health care access. I am going to use the health communications skills I have been able to develop. And I do hope that my next job will be in the Federal Government.

I’m very glad that I made that last-minute decision to apply to the PMF program nearly two years ago. And I’m grateful for the training, networking, and career opportunities that I’ve had since then. I am most thankful for the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of people across the country.

Visit www.pmf.gov for more information about the PMF program.

- Photo of Maureen Clark a participant of the Presidential Management Fellowship Program.

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