The passion and intellect Alfredo Mireles, a master’s student in the UCSF School of Nursing, brings to his work as a psychiatric nurse at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) are a natural fit for policy work.
That’s what the selection committee for the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program believed when they chose Mireles out of some 1,200 applicants for a fellowship with the California state government this year. He was one of only 64 chosen.
To complete the fellowship, Mireles will take a leave of absence after completing his first year in the master’s program in health policy at the UCSF School of Nursing.
The prestigious, 11-month fellowship begins with six weeks of classroom training, after which fellows are matched with a legislator for full-time work as a legislative staff member. “My hope is to work with a member of the Assembly Health Committee, but we’ll have to see the dynamics when I get there,” says Mireles.
Mireles received his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, and planned to work in international development. Believing one good way to work in the developing world was as a health care worker, he became a registered nurse through an accelerated program at Johns Hopkins University.
But after returning to the West Coast to work at the UCSF-affiliated SFGH, Mireles had an epiphany. “A lot of the needs in the developing world are present in my own community as well,” he says.
His work at SFGH made him acutely aware of those needs. “Inpatient psychiatry serves one of the most vulnerable populations,” he says. “These patients can’t advocate for themselves.”
Mireles dove into advocacy, including working assiduously on last year’s successful campaign for Proposition A, the San Francisco bond issue that will fund the rebuilding of SFGH, the city and county’s safety net hospital.
“I had great experiences with local civic groups and going door to door,” he says. “When you knock on someone’s door and preface your political advocacy with ‘I’m a nurse,’ people are more likely to listen. It’s a really effective tool.”
The Assembly Fellowship is not Mireles’ first foray in the fellowship world. Last spring, he completed a three-day Nurse in Washington Internship that equips nurses with the ability to advocate on Capitol Hill. And shortly after the school year ended, he was a Paul Ambrose Scholar in a multidisciplinary program in Washington designed to create the next generation of public health leaders.
“I think my applications have been significantly strengthened by being a UCSF student,” says Mireles. “UCSF is a universally respected institution, and it has definitely given my applications extra consideration.”
Photo by Elisabeth Fall/fallfoto.com