Growing up in the Austin area, senior Kelsey Mumford experienced the impact a top-tier research university can have on a community. “I saw the work UT was doing, and it was the only school I applied to,” she says. Little did she know when she was a little girl dressing up in Texas Cheer uniforms for Halloween that one day she would be representing the university on a state and national level as an advocate for better health policies.
Kelsey hit the ground running as a freshman, double majoring in nursing honors and biology. Outside of the classroom she was very involved as a Forty Acres Scholar, the School of Nursing representative in Student Government, a Texas Coed cheerleader and the Health Policy Committee chair of the UT Nursing Students Association.
During her sophomore year, the dean of the nursing school sent her to a student policy summit in Washington, D.C., designed to immerse student nurses in the federal policy process. At the summit, Kelsey had the opportunity to apply for a small grant to take what she learned back to UT. She won, and designed a three-month campaign to get other students excited about advocating for better health in the Austin community.
She organized about 70 students, who advocated to pass a bill in the Texas Legislature. The policy was a small change in the driver’s license application. Instead of checking a box to opt in to being an organ donor in Texas, you would instead have the option to opt out. “It was a very small thing, but it could have a large impact on the bigger system,” says Kelsey. “It’s an example of how a health policy on a specific issue can have a chain reaction. Health policy is not just big national bills. These state and local bills are really important.”
During her junior year, Kelsey was awarded the Nurse in Washington Internship. She received the program’s only full scholarship for a student. Kelsey was able to meet with Texas legislative staffers to discuss issues such as the opioid crisis. The goal of one bill discussed was to provide advanced-practice registered nurses with greater ability to prescribe naloxone and other opioid addiction treatments.
Kelsey has always wanted to help people. That is why she got into nursing. With these experiences, she sees a future for how to do that on a larger scale.
“I’m really interested in preventative policies. How can we prevent people from getting sick in the first place? I want to know in the future that I’ve helped Texas become a healthier state.”
Now in her senior year, Kelsey has not slowed down. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Student Nurses Association, is founder of the Health Advocacy Student Coalition, and program coordinator for the Dell Medical School Health Leadership Apprentice Program.
After graduating in May, Kelsey plans to attend graduate school and continue health advocacy in her career.
“Health is important to have a thriving society. It’s something that every single person has dealt with. Either they or someone they know has been sick. So how can I not focus on a policy area that will touch everyone?”