By Keith Egan, OMS IV
University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine
After completing my third-year core rotations at University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNECOM), almost all of which lasted six short weeks, I headed down to Washington, DC to begin my Osteopathic Health Policy Internship (OHPI). With eight weeks blocked off to explore health policy and osteopathic medical education (OME) advocacy work, I was excited to have so much time to geek-out on these important areas of medicine that have long interested me. After my orientation with AACOM’s Government Relations Department, covering a two-day symposium on Advances in Pain Research at the NIH, a Committee on Graduate Medical Education webinar, meeting with AACOM’s President and CEO Shannon C. Shannon, DO, MPH, and attending a Capitol Hill briefing on worker wellness programs, I realized that my first week had somehow flown by.
I quickly learned that this was not a particularly busy week, but normal business for the AACOM Government Relations team who work day-in and day-out advocating for osteopathic medical students and osteopathic medical education. The next seven weeks went by just as quickly. My day-by-day experiences and responsibilities varied greatly, but all helped me understand effective advocacy strategies and the importance of being at the table. I also learned a great deal about the logistics of passing new legislation, from writing the legislation, gaining co-sponsors and widespread support, getting the legislation through congress starting with committee hearing and ending with floor votes, and ensuring proper implementation after the bill becomes law. AACOM is closely involved in OME-related legislation throughout this entire process and, as an OHPI, I was right there with them.
While all my experiences over the past eight weeks were important and educational, there are some in particular that I will always remember. One such experience was a congressional staff briefing hosted by the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus on the NIH’s Brain Initiative. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health – who previously served as the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute – likened the potential impact of this 10-year project to that of the Human Genome Project. Just weeks before on my psychiatry rotation, an attending, a resident, and I were discussing the current state of psychiatric research and the lack of progress that had been made in our understanding of the brain and psychiatric diseases between DSM IV and DSM V. Dr. Collins’ presentation gave me hope that maybe, by the time DSM VI comes out, we will have progressed much, much farther thanks to the public and private investments being made in the NIH’s new initiative.
The osteopathic health policy internship was an eye-opening and inspiring experience that will inevitably impact my future career path and the way that I practice medicine. I would encourage any student who is interested in health policy or advocacy work to strongly consider applying for this tremendous experience.
Please contact Mr. Egan with specific questions about his OHPI experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.