By Mary-Lynn Bender, AACOM Senior Director of Government and Public Relations
Nicole Lighthouse, fourth-year medical student at A.T. Still University of Health Sciences Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and recent AACOM Osteopathic Health Policy Intern, sat down with Christine DeCarlo, AACOM’s Advocacy and Public Affairs Manager, to talk about her experience advocating in Washington, DC during AACOM’s COM Day on Capitol Hill 2018.
Advocating for the Future Health Care Workforce
During COM Day 2018, Nicole advocated for the preservation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Grad PLUS Loan Programs, both of which are vital for a strong health care workforce. Nicole relies on Grad PLUS loans to ensure all the costs of her education beyond tuition and fees are covered, and as someone who aspires to serve vulnerable populations in high-need areas, she plans to rely on the PSLF Program to give back to underserved communities.
Making Personal Connections
Nicole describes her favorite part of COM Day—a moment she shared with a congressional staffer who empathized with her over graduate student debt. By meeting face-to-face with lawmakers and their staff, Nicole found she could more easily demonstrate the personal side of the issues she’s advocating for.
COM Day Lessons Learned
In discussing policy issues with Congress, Nicole developed a stronger appreciation for how complex and multi-faceted policymaking is. She learned about the importance of having a diverse set of voices speaking up in support of a cause, and taking a sustainable, step-by-step approach to advocacy.
Effectively Communicating Your Message
Because Nicole’s goal is to help serve vulnerable communities, she described inequities she’s encountered during clinical rotations in health professional shortage areas, helping policymakers understand that addressing health care workforce shortages benefits not only health professionals, but also patients, their families, and their communities. Making these connections helps lawmakers better understand the issue’s broad scope and potential to touch their constituents’ lives, as well as their own.
Advice for Next Year’s Advocates
Planning on attending AACOM’s COM Day on Capitol Hill 2019? Learn three pieces of advice from Nicole on how to make the most of the experience.
Thanks to Nicole for speaking about her experience advocating in DC during COM Day on Capitol Hill, and to all our 2018 COM Day advocates! Your continuous efforts are crucial to making a difference for the future health care workforce.
Inspired by Nicole’s story? Join ED to MED today to start advocating for issues that affect your future.