Environmental Studies alumna pursues passion for policy and health as a career

Monday, June 5, 2017
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Dobesh with fellow students at the National Delegation conference
Dobesh with fellow students at the National Delegation conference

When Kaitlyn Dobesh was an Environmental Studies student in the program’s formative years, she pursued her own involvement when opportunities for advocacy were slim. She was a founding member of the Outdoor Education club, which traveled to elementary schools to host nature clubs.

Dobesh was part of the second class of Environmental Studies graduates in 2011, and the program allowed her to apply her degree in ways that included her passion for advocacy and communication. She served as a Legislative Page before working in a Legislative office. These experiences influenced her education post-undergrad, and Dobesh has already received her Law degree from Western Michigan University.

“I got really involved in policy when I took natural resource economics,” Dobesh said. “I was just fascinated by it. Knowing policy background of how we got to this point in history allows us to  communicate what is currently going on and translate it from a scientific level.”

After practicing law for two years, she applied her environmental background again and enrolled in Medical school at Wayne State University, where her co-curricular program emphasizes volunteering and in-depth seminars. This got her involved with the American Medical Association, the largest organization of doctors and medical practitioners in the United States. They have an annual meeting each year that allows medical students to be active in shaping legislation.

“We can write resolutions which are pieces of legislation that say we want the AMA to support this or we want them to not support this,” Dobesh said. “Those policies go through multiple committees for reference, and they get voted on the floor by the delegates. If they get passed, then they are supported by the three hundred million dollar lobby budget on behalf of the AMA.”

Resolutions start at the state level AMA and then are passed on to the National Delegation conference in the summer, and they often focus on arising issues that have a threat to public health.

“There was a resolution in the Michigan state medical society a few years ago that went to the National AMA,” Dobesh said. “It was about banning plastic microbeads in hand solutions because they get into the great lakes and really impact the environment. This resolution was passed by the National AMA, and within a year there was federal congressional legislation introduced to ban plastic microbeads that was also passed.”

The delegation is efficient at responding to new environmental changes that impact public health, and AMA support for these resolutions is implemented by their lobbying of the federal government. Another issue Dobesh has worked with is regarding coal-tar-based seal coats, which are used to seal pavement in public spaces like playgrounds and parks, and contain known carcinogens that threaten human health.

“This resolution passed the national AMA, and when the AMA stands for something, it means that doctors stand for something too,” Dobesh said. “Trade companies were really upset after the legislation was passed, because they’re claiming that they’re safe and they have funded research into this industry.”

With the ability for industries to produce new products before they’re ever fully tested for safety standards, her participation with the AMA is impactful on resolving larger injustices of public health. Her different degrees of education have all been influential on these critical skills.

“There’s a wide impact that you can have, and I’ve really been able to apply my environmental studies experience with policy making and my law degree with public health to work with the AMA delegation,” Dobesh said. “You never know where you will end up, so be open to new opportunities and challenges.”