Advocating for the osteopathic profession, LUCOM student-doctors meet with legislators on Capitol Hill
Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) participated in DO Day on Capitol Hill, hosted by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), April 5, in Washington D.C. LUCOM faculty and student-doctors met with legislators to discuss health care, osteopathic medicine, and the future for osteopathic physicians.
The AOA and other osteopathic professionals lobby year-round on behalf of the osteopathic profession to advocate for the community and ultimately to improve the quality of healthcare that osteopathic physicians provide to their patients. DO Day on Capitol Hill, in particular, allows osteopathic student-doctors to participate and educate members of Congress on the importance of osteopathic medicine. “DO Day on Capitol Hill is a great opportunity for osteopathic students and physicians to come together and be the voice for a specific topic that will affect our future and the future of our patients,” said student-doctor Janae Fry, Class of 2019.
Over 25 LUCOM students arrived at the nation’s capital early Tuesday afternoon where they partook in sightseeing of national monuments before the AOA’s welcome reception and student briefing later that evening. It was a quick turnaround for everyone as physicians, advocates, and student-doctors reported to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for general briefing sessions early Wednesday morning. They then collectively marched to Capitol Hill to meet with senators, representatives, and legislative aids of their respected states. For LUCOM faculty and students representing Virginia, they met with Senator Mark Warner’s Legislative Correspondent: Charlie Arnowitz, Representative Bob Goodlatte’s Legislative Assistant: Lindsey Black, and Senator Timothy Kaine’s Senior Health Policy Advisor: Kristen Molloy.
“DO Day equips us with something very important in our medical education; perspective,” said student-doctor Anya-Faye Pacleb, Class of 2018. “DO Day opens up our perspective to evaluate what needs to happen for our patients to get access to care, showing us that we can serve their needs beyond what we do in a clinic or hospital.”
This year, physicians and medical students asked representatives and senators to support the re-authorization of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program, which allows community hospitals in rural and underserved areas to train residents in primary care specialties. “We need to enact change at the top of the political chain,” said student-doctor Geocel Castanares, Class of 2020. “Health policy is the most efficient at making an impact because decisions made at this level affect everyone, community included.” Funding for the THCGME program expires in September and it is important for osteopathic medical students to advocate for its re-authorization. Without the THCGME program, osteopathic student-doctors will lose the opportunity to train in community health centers after they complete medical school, which will have a lessened impact on the rural and underserved areas. “When physicians are properly trained and have the ability to provide medical care to underserved areas and populations, we are addressing issues with physician quality and the need to reverse the problems of our national healthcare shortage,” added Castanares.
This was LUCOM’s third year advocating for the event. “I think it is very important for the students to realize that the future of their profession really rest in their hands,” said Ray L. Morrison, DO, FACOS, assistant dean of Clinical Education. “They have to learn how to advocate for themselves and how to best do that and I have witnessed firsthand the students’ ability to discuss important information with their legislators."
According to Troy Burnett, associate director of Student Services, DO Day makes an enormous impact on the community. “The topics that the student-doctors advocate for are essentially impacting all of their future patients,” said Burnett. “If the student-doctors are not supported when they become professionals, then their hands will be tied when it is time to assist people who need are in need.”
Students can sign up to participate in DO Day each year, however, the best practice is to get involved on a regular basis. Students can do this by joining American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) ED to MED campaign as student ambassadors, sign up for government relations and legislative updates from the AOA, and/or by writing letters to their representatives and senators regarding issues important to them.