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Looking Forward

DO Day: Advocacy from the OMS perspective

By Makena Leigh Lewis, OMS III, and Chandrika Sanapala, OMS II

01.26.24

DO Day takes place in April every year and is the AOA’s largest public policy and advocacy annual event. It is an opportunity for every member of the osteopathic profession to come together and advocate for issues that are important to the profession and patients. This event takes place both in-person in Washington, D.C., and virtually through a leadership and professional development conference at your convenience. No matter how you choose to participate, you will have the opportunity to have your voice be heard by congressmen and women, represent the osteopathic profession and build leadership skills. This is a chance for your voice to be heard by senators and representatives for your community!

For this upcoming DO Day on the Hill, the virtual conference will take place April 13-14, 2024, with the in-person sessions and congressional meetings taking place on April 17-18, 2024. Although the 2024 advocacy issues have not been released, the issues that osteopathic physicians and students advocated for at the 2023 DO Day on the Hill included Medicare payments to physicians that help protect patient access to health care, expansion of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program, a training program that fills primary care gaps in rural and underserved areas and support for the REDI Act, which would allow medical residents to defer student loan payments until after completion of residency without accruing interest.

Through the efforts of osteopathic physicians at DO Day 2023, along with the continued advocacy of the AOA, the following policies have been put into effect: $1.44 billion six-year reauthorization of the THCGME program, the prevention of 8.5% cuts to Medicare payment rates that were scheduled in 2023 and funding for distribution of 200 additional Medicare-funded GME residency positions.

As a former Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) National Liaison Officer of my medical school, I was afforded the opportunity to attend DO Day in-person in 2022. The thought of personally meeting with members of Congress to advocate as a constituent was both exciting and terrifying; however, the AOA made participants feel more comfortable and prepared through an information session prior to the congressional meetings. I was paired with other individuals from my congressional district, including an experienced osteopathic advocate known as a “Hill Day Veteran” that accompanied us first-time participants. Having the opportunity to advocate for my community and future patients to federal policymakers was surreal. I was honored to participate in the advancement of health policy alongside such passionate osteopathic medical students and physicians.

Osteopathic medicine emphasizes the importance of advocacy for its patients and the profession. Having had the privilege of attending the AOA House of Delegates 2023 as a Student Representative for New Mexico, as well as OMED 2023, I am humbled to have met just a few of the osteopathic heroes who have paved the way for students like me to continue advocating for our profession.

Whether as a current osteopathic medical student or physician, advocacy plays an important role in the longevity of our field. Each of our experiences within medicine provides a unique platform of advocacy, and by sharing our insight, we can identify areas of paucity and bridge the gap.

Through my involvement with the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP) and its legislative committee, I have had the privilege to learn about various avenues of advocacy at the local, state and national levels. If you are a student – change starts at your home institution. By engaging your peers in community-wide initiatives such as DO Day of Service, you have the opportunity to expose the community to osteopathy to bridge the gap at a local level. Additionally, by working with your local SOMA chapter, you can engage your peers in conversation and dialogue regarding current legislation to better understand how different advocacy groups are working to address various issues.

At a statewide level – connect with your AOA state representatives. These are individuals who stood in similar shoes in the past and may help connect you with communities and other advocates to organize larger events or spaces for dialogue.

Nationally – there are several ways to advocate for the osteopathic field. Whether through joining bureaus, committees or councils at the AOA, or attending DO Day on the Hill, your voice and perspective brings a unique viewpoint to the table. Regardless of what aspect of advocacy you wish to speak on or learn more about, these opportunities provide an excellent venue of advocacy.

At the end of the day, advocacy is what you make of it. It amplifies the voices unheard and gives it legs to stand on. Big or small, your work as an advocate does not go unnoticed and has the ability to make a lasting impact for both your patients and the osteopathic community.