FSU Student Shares Her Progression from Health Policy Lobbyist to Social Worker
From an early age, Ellen Navarro Anderson had an interest in government and politics, majoring in political science for her undergraduate degree at Florida Atlantic University with a minor in Latin American Studies.
She went on to become involved in the political and government processes of her home state of Florida in 2005, starting as an administrative assistant with the Florida Legislature and working her way up to the position of legislative aide.
It wasn’t until she met and interviewed to work with Senator Nan Rich, who is now in line to be mayor of Broward County, that she started her trajectory on her career course in health policy. “She interviewed me in 2007 and that was one of the most formidable conversations that set me on my career path,” Ellen reflected. “I owe her a lot for believing in me, supporting me and helping me grow professionally.”
With Ellen’s experience as a longtime lobbyist for health institutions, it felt like a natural progression for her to hone an interest in making a difference in healthcare on a personal level.
“Being an advocate, at heart, requires you to lean into issues and use your expertise to actually make a difference, rather than just talking about it,” Ellen shared recently in a feature article on the site City & State Florida honoring women in government and public service.
Her interest in making a difference on a personal level was sparked by a piece of legislation from the 2018 Florida legislative session filed in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting that emphasized the Florida Department of Education teaching mental health skills to school staff across the state.
“The level of public policy to ensure school safety on a mental health level is just as important as the physical,” she emphasized.
Ellen became more curious about how to make a difference on this personalized level and learned about social work through her own mental health journey with her therapist. Therapeutic conversations naturally evolved into discussions about her career goals and how to make it happen.
“As I looked more into social work, so many counselors and social workers were willing to talk to me about their program, many speaking so positively about the FSU Master of Social Work Program, it just seemed the biggest sign that it was where I needed to be,” Ellen said.
She added, “Now I am soaking up every bit of my clinical program to make my Act II in life a reality.”
Ellen is enrolled in the Online MSW Program at FSU to allow her to pursue her MSW degree while continuing her work as a government affairs executive.
Just in the last two years, she has directed state government affairs for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida lobbying for pharmacy benefit manager reform and streamlining the delivery of drugs to cancer patients. She is now also working to maintain cancer research funding for NCI cancer hospitals in FL and improve access to care in rural areas to combat health disparities through increased cancer screening, awareness and other cancer interventions.
Balancing the demands of a busy career and graduate courses can be challenging, but she notes how impactful her peers have been. “My favorite part are the weekend workshops and really getting to know my peers, faculty and staff at the College of Social Work,” she shared. “I haven’t met a single person here that isn’t here for all the right reasons and coming in with a full heart to help clients through the change process.”
With a focus on clinical social work, Ellen hopes to focus on adolescent mental health once she completes her degree.
“I hope to truly make a difference in the future by putting myself in a position to really help with adolescent health in a school setting,” she shared. “Teens are exposed to so many things that generations before us weren’t.”