Melissa M. Blessing, OMS-IV
A.T. Still University – School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona
Spending my last two months of medical school in Washington, DC, participating in the Osteopathic Health Policy Intern (OHPI) Program was one of the best career decisions I’ve made. I came to AACOM with the high expectations of meeting inspirational people, networking, learning the language of health policy, clarifying my goals for career-long involvement in policy, and, of course, learning more about the organization that supports osteopathic medical education. I wanted insight into the world that shapes health policy and my place in it, and that’s exactly what I got.
Attending a MedPAC meeting was my initiation into the election-year frenzy of budget debates. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) informs Congress on issues including physician and health plan payment, often in relation to government mandates on such issues as electronic health record usage, and access to quality care. Reporters filled this standing-room-only event, and headlines from the two-day meeting dominated conversations for days. I later attended House and Senate Budget Committee hearings addressing health care funding and physician payment, getting an insider’s view into the processes that determine the environment in which I will practice medicine.
I went on to attend meetings at the National Institutes of Health, the Advisory Committee on Minority Health, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Friends of Veterans Affairs Medical Care and Health Research, and many meetings at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I met U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin (she insisted on a hug!) and the Navajo Nation Surgeon General Dr. Gayle DinéChacon. I also attended meetings of professional interest including “The Next Frontier in Neglected Tropical Disease Control” and “Combating Viral Hepatitis,” and met inspiring physicians including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dr. John Ward, Director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis.
Of all my OHPI aspirations, I was deeply hoping to meet someone – who, I wasn’t sure – that would model and inspire my goal of incorporating health policy into clinical practice. I got that chance during a Coalition for Health Funding event, of which AACOM was a sponsor. The event featured innovative researchers, among them Dr. Peter Pronovost, Medical Director for Johns Hopkins’ Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care. Dr. Pronovost spoke with contagious passion about his work to eliminate medical errors and increase patient safety. I was privileged to speak with him afterwards about the importance and feasibility of incorporating health policy into clinical practice, which he strongly encouraged. It is difficult to describe moments that affect the trajectory of our lives, but for me, this was one of them.
My worldview was deeply impacted by my OHPI experience. I was humbled to see first-hand the incredible effort put toward public health, eliminating health disparities, the entire infrastructure of our health care system, and, of course, toward my very own osteopathic medical education. I gained the tools necessary to analyze and interpret current issues in Washington, from graduate medical education and physician payment to public health and medical research funding initiatives. The AACOM OHPI Program is an amazing opportunity, and one that I highly recommend to my motivated osteopathic medical student colleagues. Learning the language and culture of health policy and government relations is a tool that will serve both you and the osteopathic profession incredibly well as you embark on your career.
Learn more about the AACOM OHPI Program.