Medical Students Demonstrate Public Policy Skills on the Hill

On Nov. 15, 2018, the AAOS Office of Government Relations (OGR) hosted 26 medical students from Howard University College of Medicine for the Second Annual AAOS-Nth Dimensions Capitol Hill Day. The event was part of an ongoing collaboration with Nth Dimensions, an organization dedicated to supporting women and minorities in orthopaedics. The students took to advocacy like pros, building support for key orthopaedic objectives and growing skills they will need for a lifetime of engagement in public policy.

The day began with a briefing on the basics of a congressional visit and two pieces of legislation supported by AAOS. The first, the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act, would allow interest-free student loan deferment for borrowers serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program. The second, the Medicare Care Coordination Improvement Act, is proposed bipartisan Stark law reform that seeks to ease the transition from volume to value by allowing physicians to appropriately coordinate care without being hampered by self-referral prohibitions. The students were eager to build support for both bills on Capitol Hill.

Several Nth Dimensions students on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building. The students met with members of Congress to advocate for orthopaedic priorities.
Courtesy of Jordan Vivian

In meetings with various U.S. representatives, the students shared their personal experiences with student loan debt and concerns about their future in medicine. The compelling stories led to successful meetings and, potentially, congressional support for both bills. The AAOS OGR looks forward to continued partnership with these future orthopaedic surgeons as they continue to engage in healthcare advocacy.

Student perspectives

“The AAOS-Nth Dimensions Capitol Hill Day was a valuable experience that afforded Howard University medical students, such as myself, an opportunity to view advocacy as an area where I could have a voice in policy change and reform,” said Akini Moses, MD candidate, MS1. “I was truly energized by this experience, specifically in sharing the REDI Act with members of Congress. It was inspiring to hear about the journeys and sacrifices of my fellow colleagues and how the REDI Act would help relieve loan interest repayment during residency training. Moreover, we discussed how the REDI Act would directly impact patient care, by encouraging physicians to work in underserved communities, thereby addressing healthcare disparities. I would thoroughly encourage medical students interested in orthopaedic surgery and other specialties to get involved and share their voice, as policy directly affects health care.”

“As medical students, we learn to go above and beyond for our patients, prioritizing their health and safety,” said Rolanda Willacy, MD candidate, MS4. “In partnering with AAOS to speak with representatives of Congress, my classmates and I were able to advocate for changes that would positively impact the lives of patients across the country. Lobbying during AAOS-Nth Dimensions Capitol Hill Day was an unforgettable experience—a first of its kind for me. It piqued my interest in government, [and] it surely won’t be my last [advocacy effort]. I look forward to partnering with AAOS on future endeavors and discovering ways to merge my burgeoning interest with my future as an orthopaedic surgeon.”

Jordan Vivian is a manager in the AAOS OGR.

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