My inspiration of the month is the really impressive Lauren Underwood. The Illinois Democrat Representative is a registered nurse from Chicago who set out to make a difference in the healthcare system. She’s also the first woman, the first person of color, and the first millennial to represent her community in Congress. “If you focus on the work, you find fulfillment,” she once said.
Underwood was born in Naperville, Illinois. Even as a kid, she believed in public service. She was a Girl Scout, a volunteer for community service groups, and always working to help others. As a junior at Neuqua Valley, her first experience with politics was serving on the Naperville Fair Housing Advisory Commission, where she was exposed to injustice and discrimination. Her task was to report these to the Naperville City Council. That was when she began to build her leadership skills.
She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and later earned a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. She also worked as a registered nurse in various hospitals in the U.S. and abroad, including in Uganda.
In 2014, Underwood began working as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama Administration, where she focused on implementing the Affordable Care Act and addressing public health emergencies such as the Ebola outbreak.
Underwood was first sworn into Congress in January 2019. Since then, she’s fought to hold on to her place in Congress and won. She’s a hard worker and is known for being open and approachable.
A health policy expert, she is a strong supporter of access to affordable healthcare for all. She’s helped to lower the cost of prescription drugs, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and continues to address racial inequities in health care outcomes.
Underwood believes investment in nursing, mental health care, and other providers will increase access to life changing care for vulnerable people. Additionally, she has also focused on issues such as immigration reform, gun control, and climate change.
“The framework that I always use is that there is a window of opportunity to make policy change,” Underwood has said, “and when the window is open, you, as the advocate, need to be aggressive about making sure that your issue can move, because once folks move on and that window closes, it’ll be gone. And for me, we are in this moment where people understand health equity issues. They understand the need for people to have health care and that my responsibility as a policymaker is to make sure that we’re doing everything we can.”
Read more about Lauren Underwood and who she is, versus what she does, in the Washington Post.