Shwetha Chagalamarri, OMS IV,
University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth/ Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine

Editor’s Note: Shwetha Chagalamarri is AACOM’s first Osteopathic Health Policy Intern (OHPI) of 2012. For a brief profile of student doctor Chagalamarri and information on her internship with AACOM, see the February issue of InsideOME.

As a medical student, I’m ecstatic to be training at a time when the subject of fundamentally reforming America’s health care system is center stage. Today, innovation and experimentation in health care delivery is moving forward at a rapid pace, and as a future osteopathic physician, I want to be at the forefront of this change to help shape the dialogue. The Osteopathic Health Policy Intern Program (OHPI) has given me exactly that and much more.

As an OHPI, my immersion into the world of government relations has been an invaluable experience. It has shown me how policy is created in Washington, DC, with input and advocacy from AACOM and countless stakeholder groups and coalitions working to advance their priorities. By attending diverse health care meetings held by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, House and Senate congressional committees and numerous medical interest groups, I’ve been fortunate to witness health policy ideas and initiatives in the making.

Attending the AcademyHealth’s National Health Policy Conference was an eye-opening experience. I was able to get insider perspectives from policy experts, Capitol Hill staff members and public health officials on critical emerging health care issues such as the implementation of state insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, the measurement of health care quality, and the economic realities of health care reform and implementation.

I’ve also been able to see how a particular policy can affect similar constituencies differently, and how stakeholder groups navigate these issues. For example, Congress recently agreed to temporarily fix Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which pays physicians for their services, partially by cutting funding to chronic health and disease prevention programs. I was able to witness interest groups spring into action to advocate to lawmakers that cutting health care prevention funding in order to pay for physician services was in their view counterproductive, and that Congress must address these issues in a more sustainable manner. Tackling challenging situations such as these has helped me realize the importance of understanding the multifaceted nature of policy making.

As future physicians, it is imperative for medical students to understand the forces that shape the health care environment so that they can better advocate for their patients and their profession. I am truly appreciative to AACOM for giving me this opportunity to enrich my education. I would encourage all osteopathic medical students to actively participate in the policy making process, whether it is through an internship, through a leadership position in a professional organization, or by advocating through participation in a lobby day. Being an OHPI has been one of the most memorable and valuable experiences of my medical education.

Inside OME Header
March 2012
Vol. 6, No. 3