Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
Elevating OME's Voice in the National Health Care Policy Arena
The 112th Congress will reconvene following its August district work period amid national conversations regarding a number of issues that are critical to osteopathic medical education (OME). The Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), but many programs vital to OME remain unfunded or underfunded, and future appropriations for many programs important to the osteopathic medical education community are facing dire cuts in Congress. The national presidential election campaign season is in full swing, bringing issues regarding the cost and delivery of health care into the highly charged political arena. The resulting perfect storm of uncertainty creates both concern among AACOM and its membership, and the opportunity to elevate the voice of OME in the national health care policy arena.
Osteopathic medical schools have doubled their student population over the last decade, and now educate more than 20 percent of U.S. medical students. Based upon current trends, about 50 percent of these graduates will become primary care physicians, many serving America’s smaller communities, rural areas and underserved urban areas. Thus, osteopathic medical education could have a profound effect on mitigating current and projected physician shortages. But collaboration and support from federal and state policy makers will be needed to address the insufficient number of medical residency slots to accommodate the growing number of graduates. As policy makers grapple with the complexities of graduate medical education (GME), AACOM will continue to advocate for policies that promote GME efficiency, growth, and innovation, working with policy makers and relevant federal agencies to ensure that the osteopathic medical education community plays an active role in identifying and implementing solutions.
Likewise, policy makers must continue to attend to the problem of burgeoning medical student debt (see my column in the last issue of Inside OME). AACOM will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to advocate for a long-term solution to the rise in student loan debt, and will continue to support policies that lessen the financial burden for osteopathic medical students and help make medical education more affordable.
Additionally, AACOM has nominated several osteopathic medical education representatives who are now serving on critical federal policy advisory bodies, helping to ensure that medical education’s priorities are represented on issues ranging from the future of primary care to expansion of medical research. (Visit the here for a full list of AACOM nominations and appointments.)
Finally, AACOM is working in collaboration with allied organizations and the larger health professions education community to ensure that educational experiences best prepare medical and other health professions students for the nation’s rapidly evolving health care environment. The AOA-AACOM Blue Ribbon Commission for the Advancement of Osteopathic Medical Education, whose mission is to “to identify unique opportunities for the osteopathic profession to offer leadership in medical education so as to improve the health of the U.S. population in the 21st century,” is one example of this collaborative work. The Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) is another. A body of six health professions education organizations that are working together to promote interprofessional, team-based learning, IPEC aims to help ensure that today’s health professions students are prepared for tomorrow’s team-based health care system.
As AACOM works to support policies, educational innovations, and collaborative initiatives that benefit osteopathic medical students and, ultimately, the patients they will serve, it is important to lend your voice to the debate. One way to elevate issues impacting colleges of osteopathic medicine in Congress is to urge your U.S. Representative to join the Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus, which is a bipartisan congressional caucus that is dedicated to promoting excellence in medical education and ensuring abundant training opportunities for the next generation of physicians. The AACOM advocacy web pages include other opportunities to get involved, such as subscribing to AACOM’s Action Alerts, which provide an opportunity to make your voice heard to your Member of Congress on critical issues impacting OME. Finally, during the current August congressional recess, while Members of Congress are home working in their districts, I hope you will reach out to them on issues of importance to OME. Please join us in this critical work.