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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Caught in the ACT

    <st people would agree that living lives of service is both honorable and desirable. The problem arises when forced to translate a passion for service into a real income. Service doesn’t always pay in a currency accepted at the bank. However, many people are fulfilling their desire to give back while still affording food and electricity. The ACT Center, in partnership with the Career Center, and the Chaplain’s office, brought three living examples of this to Carleton this past Tuesday at the “Careers in Social Justice Panel.” In line with the theme of the ACT Center’s Civil Engagement Series, all the speakers had careers in the realm of public health. Here is a quick look at each of them:

    Elizabeth Lienesch (’08) is a recent Carl grad working in St. Paul with the non-profit organization, Take Action Minnesota, doing community organizing and lobbying around the issue of affordable healthcare in Minnesota. Lienesch was inspired to work in this area after having her own battles with health insurance when she left her parents’ coverage. Her job (which she received through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps) has led her to believe that the “healthcare system is too broken and too important not to fix it.” She reminded everyone that graduating from Carleton is a privilege and therefore a responsibility to act.

    Ellen Benavides (’80) has had a long and twisted career path that has always centered on the issue of public health. She originally came to Carleton with Biology on her mind and the ambition of being a neurosurgeon. She soon realized that her talents were better suited for something else and that there was more than one way to get into the field of healthcare. Benavides works in several different not for profits and for Hennepin County. Through these jobs she met many people struggling with getting healthcare. This led her to believe that “the voices of real people [that] should drive policy.” Today, she is a private health consultant and documentary-maker on health-related issues. Her biggest frustration working in the field of public health? That, “as a society, we haven’t decided that healthcare is a human right.”

    Lisa Simer (’76) is currently a Program Officer with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota who admits that health wasn’t always on her radar. Graduating college with a degree in SOAN, Simer had no clue what she was planning to do with her life. She did a variety of youth-centered community work where she learned that your “community is the classroom and the community is your biggest asset.” When Simer got breast cancer, she began thinking about the link between health and environment and learned that if you live in an impoverished community, your risk of getting a serious disease is considerably higher. She then joined Blue Cross Blue Shield’s new social justice program, Children’s Health Initiative where she continues to see that “health follows a social gradient.”

    These three Carleton grads provided an invaluable look at ways of making a difference and making a living at the same time. The most important lessons they all stressed were to think about health and healthcare broadly (you don’t have to be a doctor to make a difference), be creative, and be open to any new experience.

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