Prior to joining Cancer Support Community, Alpha Lillstrom served as Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel for Health and Judiciary issues for Senator Jon Tester (Montana). She advised Senator Tester throughout the landmark debate and passage of the Affordable Care Act. During her tenure in the Senate, working on behalf of Montana’s citizens, she served as the primary point of contact for patient advocates, stakeholders and administrators on both the state and national levels in order to advance federal policy and improve patient care. She visited each of the 62 hospitals and almost every community health center in the state to develop a better understanding of the unique needs and care opportunities for people living in rural America and in Indian Country—further appreciating the realities of access to care, workforce development and limited patient choices. As a young breast cancer survivor, Alpha also brings a strong personal perspective to the Cancer Support Community’s Cancer Policy Institute.
While in Senate, Alpha also worked on issues of campaign finance reform and privacy as well as government transparency and accountability. Before and during her tenure with Sen. Tester, she directed the Voter Protection efforts for Senators Casey, Franken and Feingold. She was Senator Franken’s Policy Director during his campaign and was hand-picked to be the Recount Director for his eventual 312-vote win in 2009.
Alpha grew up on a farm in Western Pennsylvania. In 2003 she graduated from American University’s Washington College of Law and subsequently practiced immigration law before pursuing politics and federal policy. She also earned a MA from American University’s School of International Service where she focused on China policy. During law school she lived in Hong Kong where she studied comparative Chinese and Hong Kong constitutional and immigration law—topping off two years of Mandarin studies in China and Taiwan that followed her completion of a BA in cultural anthropology at the University of Chicago.