Cassandre N. Marseille, OMS-IV
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine–New York
Every year, regulations are implemented and laws are passed that have a significant and powerful impact on individuals’ lives. The legislative system as designed is most effective if we, as constituents, provide feedback to our lawmakers and federal officials. Consequently, I have always believed that it is imperative for citizens to become civically involved at the city, county, state, and national levels; this is the most efficient way to influence change. That is how my interest in policy began, with a particular interest in federal health policy as a future physician. When I learned about AACOM’s Osteopathic Health Policy Intern (OHPI) Program, I knew immediately that this was the perfect opportunity for me to gain a deeper understanding of the legislative process, so I could better advocate for my future patients and colleagues and hopefully someday, change at the national level. However, my experience as an OHPI far exceeded my expectations.
As soon as I arrived at AACOM’s Washington, DC office on my first day, the Government Relations (GR) team had already planned and scheduled ahead many exciting meetings for me to attend on a wide range of health policy topics ranging from minority health and veterans’ health to cancer research. I also realized that January and February were pivotal months to be in DC, as many crucial events such as the President’s State of Union address, the release of the President’s budget, followed by the beginning of the congressional appropriations season, as well as AACOM’s ED to MED campaign launch all took place during my time as an OHPI. After my AACOM orientation, I was readily equipped with my laptop, my wifi card, and my metro card, to take on the word of federal health policy. My very first meeting was the Senate confirmation hearing for Robert Califf as the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Since then, I have attended and provided the GR department with relevant information from meetings such as the Brookings Institute events, various congressional briefings on Capitol Hill, various meetings at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. I was also fortunate to attend a two-day meeting of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which helped me gain a deeper understanding of how Medicare payment reimbursement for providers is determined. Additionally, I was able to attend the annual AcademyHealth national health policy conference where industry leaders from all over the country came together to discuss the many challenges that our health care system is facing, and possible solutions and ideas to address these issues. I was also fortunate to attend budget briefings for agencies including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the NIH, as well as other budget briefings hosted by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Under the guidance of AACOM’s Vice President of Government Relations Pamela Murphy, interns conduct research on a federal health or education policy topics of their choosing for a policy paper. I chose to research the impact the medical student loan debt crisis has on the national health care system. I researched factors driving this crisis and legislation that is currently underway to tackle this growing problem. After conducting a thorough analysis, I made recommendations from a medical student’s perspective on the importance of advocating on this issue to lawmakers and what possible measures Congress could take to alleviate the problem. Once my research was complete, I presented my findings to AACOM staff.
As a medical student with a strong interest in health policy and administration, being an AACOM intern will remain as one of the most memorable experiences of my medical school career. During this internship, I experienced an array of sentiments. First, I felt challenged as I was getting to know the landscape of federal health and education policies. Thankfully, with the help, guidance, knowledge, and patience of the AACOM GR team, I was able to overcome that challenge very quickly. Secondly, I initially felt lost. Just as acronyms are a way of life in medical school, it is similar in DC, so I had to read and digest a lot of information quickly to be able to participate in conversations around me. Finally, as I leave this internship, I feel empowered. I have acquired a lot of knowledge that I can build upon in ways in which policy and advocacy work hand-in-hand together. I understand some of the priorities that drive the federal government’s decisions and how they influence the nation’s citizens on a daily basis. More importantly, as a future physician, I understand even more now how passivity can adversely affect us; as laws are being passed and our futures shaped, if we remain silent, someone will always speak on our behalves whether or not we agree with what they say.