05-2016_Ryan-NguyenRyan Nguyen, OMS-IV
Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific

As an AACOM Osteopathic Health Policy Intern (OHPI), I have had the incredible opportunity to be immersed in the world of federal health policy for my last two months of medical school. Just within my first week in Washington, DC, I met with my congressional representatives as part of AACOM’s 2016 COM Day on Capitol Hill, where deans, fellow students, and other representatives from the nation’s colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) came to Capitol Hill to advocate on issues impacting COMs. Medical student debt and graduate medical education (GME) were the key issues of this year’s COM Day priorities, and became topics I progressively learned more about each day during my internship.

The AACOM Government Relations (GR) team encouraged me to dive into the health policy realm while I simultaneously learned the ins and outs of working in a busy and fast-paced GR office. Daily tasks included drafting summaries of upcoming legislation, attending congressional hearings and other briefings, keeping up-to-date on the latest health policy news, and providing support for the GR team wherever I could.

My policy research during the program focused on a cost-benefit analysis of GME and strategies to strengthen our nation’s investment in this vital program. GME funding, which contains over $15 billion per year in public support, was certainly a daunting task to analyze during my internship, but the GR team provided a seemingly endless supply of expertise and support to help me throughout the process.

Moreover, some the most formative events I was able to attend included:

  • Congressional briefings that featured the testimonies of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH on their respective departments’ fiscal year 2017 budgets;
  • A meeting of the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, where federal health policy and economics experts discussed strategies to improve Medicare payment models;
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee’s third mark-up of a series of biomedical innovation bills;
  • A congressional hearing featuring Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton, FBA, speaking on economics, poverty, and health disparities;
  • An American Cancer Society forum on the future uses of technology in cancer care. 

In spite of the polarizing political environment of the 2016 presidential election, I was inspired to see bipartisan action being taken in Congress on health-related legislation. In early March, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a significant step towards combatting the opioid abuse epidemic that claims on average 78 American lives every day. Moreover, as part of President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, the Senate HELP committee demonstrated a commitment to advancing biomedical research. And in light of Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative, experts in the field of cancer research were in DC almost on a weekly basis discussing how to best innovate new therapies for cancer patients. 

The OHPI program was the perfect ending for my medical school education and offered a broader view of the federal health policies that shape the day-to-day realities for patients and providers. While I embark upon the next step of my training as an Internal Medicine resident at Indiana University, I look forward to making health policy an integral part of my career. As my congressional representative told me during COM Day, “You can’t afford not to get involved.” I am grateful to the GR staff, AACOM, and the osteopathic medical community for the opportunity to develop into a future advocate for my patients and the profession.

Please feel free to contact Mr. Nguyen with specific questions about his OHPI experience at WhiteCoatDO.




Inside OME Header
April/May 2016
Vol. 10, No. 4