Earlier this month, 15 Student Health Policy Fellowship (SHPF) fellows traveled to Washington, DC, for three days of learning, networking, and advocacy. During their time in the nation’s capital, the group of selected students received hands-on training on how to be good advocates for the PA community — and then tested their skills on Capitol Hill.
The first order of business was to introduce them to PAEA’s advocacy agenda and priorities, as well as important legislation we are working on. To prepare the fellows for their visit to the Hill, Kristin Butterfield, AAPA’s director of grassroots and political advocacy, was on hand to give an introduction to advocacy and why it is so important for the future of PA education and the profession, and our colleagues at Polsinelli provided advice on how to make the most of congressional visits. Athena Abdulla, PAEA’s director of government relations, and Tate Heuer, AAPA’s vice president of federal advocacy, spoke to the fellows about some of the issues facing PA education and practice.
After lunch, Dayna Matthew, a Brookings Institution Fellow, RWJF Health Policy Fellow, and published author, spoke to the students about her experiences working with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Brookings, and RWJF. Mathew provided a motivating and compelling account of how getting involved and taking risks can land you at the forefront of issues that affect not only the profession, but the national agenda.
On Tuesday, the group visited Capitol Hill to make use of their newly refined skillset. This year, the fellows met with 33 members of Congress or their staff — the most meetings of any SHPF class to date — including 15 Senate Republicans, seven Senate Democrats, six House Republicans, and five House Democrats.
One of the Representatives the fellows met with was Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a former PA and leading voice in Congress for PA advocacy. Over the course of a half an hour, the students had a candid discussion with her about PA education issues, health care across the country, and what it means to her to be a member of Congress.
On their final day, they were given another important opportunity to speak up for the PA profession. Stephanie Radix, AAPA’s senior director of constituent organization, outreach, and advocacy, introduced the fellows to the basics of state advocacy and how to get involved on a local level through state and local organizations. Radix described the process of championing efforts at the state level and shared how AAPA works with local advocates to influence scope of practice laws and create an optimal practice environment for PAs.
With their newly bolstered knowledge of both state and national advocacy, the fellows returned home to start planning and implementing their chosen advocacy project. The only requirements for their projects are that they must be completed within a year and relate to the PA profession or PA education.
“The most rewarding part of the fellowship experience, for me, is seeing students leave DC inspired, and seeing the creativity and passion develop into a project,” said Kendall Mealy, PAEA’s director of leadership and diversity.
We can’t wait to see what they come up with — but whatever their projects are, we know the PA community now has stronger voices speaking up for it.