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Learning to Take Action: Promoting Student Advocacy

From the March 2016 Inside OME

Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
President     

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ast month, I explored how AACOM works to advocate for policies and regulations that align with the interests of our membership—the students, staff, faculty, and administration at the nation’s accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine. This month, I would like to put special focus on how we are growing our capacity to support osteopathic medical students.

Osteopathic medical students are some of the brightest medical minds in the nation. They go on to become leaders in their field, advocates for their patients, and respected members of their communities. However, the path to practice is not always easy. As a part of our mission, AACOM continues to advocate on behalf of their students, provide opportunities for growth and development, and empower students to become the leaders of tomorrow.

AACOM takes special care to listen to the needs of students as it evolves as an organization. In response to ongoing requests from our student members, the Association has taken several steps to ensure that osteopathic medical students have the representation and opportunities they need to succeed.

AACOM prioritizes federal initiatives to ensure a well-trained workforce to address the nation’s future health care demands, particularly in the areas of GME and primary care. AACOM has consistently endorsed legislation such as the Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act (H.R. 4774), which aims to help address the nation’s physician workforce shortage by increasing Medicare-funded GME positions, as well as advocates for federal funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration’s Title VII health professions education and training programs. These programs are critical to support a diverse and well-trained workforce.

AACOM’s ED to MED national grassroots advocacy campaign, which I highlighted in last month’s column, has seen significant growth in participation and engagement since its launch in January. Several hundred new registrants joined the campaign in February alone. This effort aims to give a voice to medical students, educators, and other advocates in ongoing policy discussions that impact graduate student debt. As Congress negotiates the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, this representation is critical to ensuring that the law reflects the unique circumstances that impact medical student debt. The launch of the full ED to MED website is set for April 7, and will include enhanced tools and resources for students and other advocates to directly engage with their elected officials.

AACOM strives to connect directly with osteopathic medical students and give them the opportunity to learn about public policy and leadership at the national level. We’ve had the pleasure of working with outstanding student leaders through the Council of Student Government Presidents (COSGP—consisting of the elected leaders of the over 26,000 osteopathic medical students in the United States) and the Osteopathic Health Policy Internship (OHPI) Program, which provides special experience and training to individual students who have gone on to represent the profession in an exceptional manner.

The COSGP is AACOM’s official national student leadership council—comprised of the student government/council presidents from each of the nation's COMs. AACOM works directly with the members of this council to foster professional development and leadership experience among osteopathic medical students and to advocate for their interests. COSGP is the only official entity that represents all osteopathic medical students and also serves as the liaison between DO students and osteopathic professional organizations.

AACOM’s Office of Government Relations oversees the OHPI Program which is designed for current osteopathic medical students who are interested in health policy and would like to gain firsthand experience in Washington, DC. The goal of this highly-competitive internship is to provide students with the forum and tools they need to cultivate an understanding and operational knowledge of how federal health care policy is developed and how to influence it effectively.

This year’s inaugural AACOM Virtual Hill Day is another example of AACOM’s innovative approach to promoting and supporting osteopathic medical student advocacy. Held March 2 in conjunction with the Association’s 2016 COM Day on Capitol Hill, the event gave students and other advocates outside of Washington, D.C. a forum to participate and voice their opinions on the policy issues that matter to their future. For more information on our Virtual Hill Day, please visit our COM Day Storify.

AACOM is determined to strengthen our role as a national leader and advocate for osteopathic medical education, particularly in support of the interests of osteopathic medical students and graduates. As we move toward a new Administration and other challenges that lay ahead, the Association is committed to working in partnership with our students to advocate for their future and interests of the osteopathic medical education community.