At medical school, I am the vice president of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA). As part of this association, I have the unique ability to fly to our nation’s capital and discuss with politicians specific bills that are being debated in Congress. It is a little hard to describe your first trip to the nation’s capital without being in utter awe.
I read about all these buildings and famous areas of DC all through my early education, but then I finally saw everything up close and personal. The Washington Monument as I flew in, the Capitol building, and the Lincoln Memorial, being in the exact area where Martin Luther King, JR., had his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, these are just some of the things that just took my breath away. Enough with my special moment….
On the first day, we participated in “D.O. Day on the Hill.” Basically, what we did – along with thousands of other osteopathic students, physicians, and educators – is go to Congress to discuss with the policymakers some key legislative bills that we wanted to support, that we do not support, or bills that have been revised. Our group only talked to mostly staff.
One of the most important bills we discussed was the GME funding cuts, which cuts support for primary care residency spots for osteopathic students. This bill does not make much sense since America has a problem with lack of primary care physicians, especially in rural areas, and it’s only going to get worse. With the increase in medical schools being built, more residency spots are needed to fulfill this increase in students, especially in the primary care area.
Another bill we discussed involved flexible spending accounts. Patients have to get a prescription before getting over the counter drugs with their flexible spending accounts. Basically, people who have flexible spending accounts, if they have a headache and want some Tylenol or something else over the counter, they have to schedule an appointment with their physician and then get a prescription for the Tylenol. They cannot just run to the store and pick it up. This one again does not make sense; it takes time away from the doctor where it is truly needed.
The experience was a little intimidating at first due to the fact that in every building we walked into we had to pass through metal detectors. Once in the building, our group met with various staff members to discuss the bills described above. The meetings were about 30 minutes in which we had the opportunity to express our opinions on these bills. It was truly a very unique experience for all involved.
During the next few days, I had meetings with SOMA and also did the Washington DC tourist thing. I went to a Washington Capitals game, which was amazing, and saw most of the monuments. The best story involved our visit to the White House. As we started walking to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it just didn’t seem like we are getting anywhere, and the area was getting a little more challenging. To make a long story short, instead of going to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NE, we went to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, a very different neighborhood and nowhere near the White House!
Washington, DC is an amazing place where many decisions are made. I am glad I had the opportunity to participate and offer our insights as future physicians.
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