Meril Pothen: 2021 PMF
Meril Pothen’s PMF journey has allowed her to build, analyze, and implement pivotal health policy at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House. She began her fellowship at HHS following a career in health care consulting and was motivated to make health care more affordable, accessible, and equitable for all Americans. While at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services within HHS, she helped lead the policy and operational implementation of the No Surprises Act, a bipartisan law that protects patients from unexpected out-of-network medical bills. This role required her to bring her private sector skills in relationship building, negotiation, and project management to the forefront. As a lead coordinator for the law’s implementation, Meril had to be both broad and deep; she’d go from briefing a senior leader on a technical project’s status to writing fact sheets and FAQs for a regulation in one afternoon. Although the work was long and difficult, she loved the team’s camaraderie, spirit, and shared commitment to making the health care system better for all. Seeing the policy go into effect on January 1, 2022 and being part of the team that made it happen is her proudest career accomplishment to date.
Following her work on No Surprises, Meril went on rotation to the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget and often collaborates with the Domestic Policy Council’s Health and Veterans team. Eager to complement her HHS experience in project management and coordination with a strong policy skillset, she’s had the opportunity to work on policy issues related to nursing homes, prescription drugs, the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges, tobacco, and maternal health. She is delighted to be building content knowledge in an array of health care topics and is confident her PMF experience is an excellent foundation for an impactful career in health policy.
In addition to her work in health care, Meril enjoys sharing her PMF experience with applicants and Finalists. One thing she highlights in every PMF talk is that most applicants are eligible to apply for PMF multiple times. Meril first applied for PMF in 2020 and was not named a Finalist. She was disappointed, but motivated enough to enter public service that she applied again in 2021 and was successful! Her advice to applicants is to connect with as many current and former PMFs as possible, take breaks in between sections of the online assessment, and if not named a Finalist the first time around to try again. Meril is thankful for the many opportunities and mentors PMF has afforded her and looks forward to supporting future PMF applicants, Finalists, and Fellows!