By: Douglas Anderson, OMS-IV, 2dLt USAFR
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
I had the opportunity to spend my last two months of medical school in Washington, DC as the Osteopathic Health Policy Intern (OHPI). After completing all of my clinical rotations and matching into residency, I packed up my car and drove from Philadelphia to Washington, changing my way of thinking from the differential diagnosis to the political process. With a strong interest in health policy, but only limited first-hand experience, I had no idea what to expect in the complex fast-paced world of DC politics. Luckily, with the help and support of the knowledgeable AACOM government relations staff, I learned about the complexities and details of the legislative process and how I could contribute as an advocate. Armed with a laptop, an outlook account, and a metro card, in no time I was running from policy briefings to congressional hearings all over the greater DC area.
Each day was a different adventure as an OHPI, taking me to places such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Institute of Health (NIH), United States Department of Education (USDE), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Brookings Institution, and President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. At these hearings I had the chance to listen, learn and speak to the leaders at the forefront of US health policy innovation.
During my second week in DC, the Senate took up the House-passed Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, better known as the SGR repeal bill or MACRA. After a lengthy debate, they overwhelmingly passed this highly anticipated legislation, which repealed the flawed SGR reimbursement formula, a recurrent nightmare for physicians each year. Also included in this bill, was a two year funding extension for the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program (THCGME) and the National Health Service Corp (NHSC). Due largely to consistent advocacy efforts by the AACOM government relations department, these two programs will continue to help osteopathic medical students, increase primary care training in community healthcare settings, and promote increased medical services for the underserved.
In addition to event reporting and daily tasks such as posting relevant grants for osteopathic medical schools and students, I reviewed daily publications from a variety of sources such as the American Medical Association (AMA), Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), Politico, and Congressional Quarterly. This allowed me to stay up-to-date on current events surrounding health policy and higher education, which I could report back to the rest of the government relations team. I also created a policy paper on a specific topic that was of particular interest to me, which was the impact of offshore medical schools on US clinical training sites. Please email me if you want to learn more about the work I did on this topic.
Several exciting issues came up during my internship such as the 21st Century Cures Act, which increases NIH funding; the Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act, which removes federal loopholes that allow offshore medical schools easier access to Title IV federal financial aid; and the upcoming Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization, which introduced proposals such as accreditation reform and institutional risk-sharing. As an OHPI, I was asked to help research and analyze the impact that these bills would have on the osteopathic medical education community.
The past eight weeks were unlike any other medical school experience, testing my ability to multitask, communicate, write, and discuss complex issues. The knowledge and skills I gained during this internship to be an effective advocate will undoubtedly serve me well as I continue to participate in health policy work throughout residency and practice. I highly encourage any student interested in health policy to apply to this program, it is a truly exceptional opportunity.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Douglas H. Anderson, OMS-IV, 2dLt USAFR
Osteopathic Health Policy Intern