By Mary-Lynn Bender, AACOM Director of Congressional and Public Affairs
Katie Kaeppler, fourth-year student at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine, recently spoke with Christine DeCarlo, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)’s Advocacy and Public Affairs Manager, about her time in Washington, DC, as AACOM’s Osteopathic Health Policy Intern.
As part of her internship, Katie investigated the factors that influence physicians to pursue primary care, particularly in rural and medically underserved areas.
Watch video clips from Katie’s interview to learn more about her thoughts on our country’s current primary care shortage, health care distribution disparities, and how advocating for federal financial aid and loan repayment programs can help address these challenges.
How Graduate Student Debt Impacts the Health Care Landscape
Katie is passionate about primary care, namely pediatrics, and intends to pursue that specialty after she graduates. She acknowledges, however, that graduate student debt may deter some of her classmates from specializing in primary care in rural or medically underserved areas when faced with uncertainty about the federal programs they rely on for financial aid support and their financial futures.
How Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Can Help
Katie argues that when students are making career choices, either what specialty they’ll go into or where they will practice, programs such as PSLF help alleviate serious concerns about shouldering burdensome debt. PSLF plays a crucial role in incentivizing careers in public service by assisting health professionals as they work to give back to their communities.
How a New Advocate Can Get Involved with Speaking Up to Protect Key Federal Programs Impacting Osteopathic Medical Education
Katie’s main advice for those new to advocacy, particularly medical students, is to give yourself permission to start small. Focusing on one thing you’re interested in and passionate about, and finding programs such as ED to MED that provide information and resources to guide your advocacy, are helpful first steps. Katie also encourages potential advocates to know that every voice truly does matter, and that Members of Congress depend on messages from constituents to learn how issues and programs impact the people they represent.