Ninth Student Health Policy Fellowship Cohort Makes Its Mark on Capitol Hill

This month, PAEA’s Government Relations team hosted the ninth cohort of Student Health Policy Fellows for a three-day workshop focused on skill-building in grassroots advocacy. The Student Health Policy Fellowship (SHPF), one of PAEA’s longest running programs for PA students, is designed to cultivate the next generation of leaders and advocates for the PA profession and PA education through participation in engaging lectures, networking opportunities, and facilitated advocacy experiences.

On the first day of this year’s workshop, fellows received a comprehensive overview of PA practice policy and PAEA’s organizational priorities. AAPA Senior Director of State Advocacy and Outreach Stephanie Radix, JD, spoke with the students about recent state-level legislative advances for the PA profession related to optimal team practice, as well as the six key elements of a modern PA practice act. Director of Grassroots and Political Advocacy Kristen Butterfield and Vice President of Federal Advocacy Tate Heuer built upon Radix’s session by providing insights on effective grassroots advocacy tactics and AAPA’s federal policy priorities, including the Improving Access to Workers’ Compensation for Injured Federal Workers Act and the Promoting Access to Diabetic Shoes Act. PAEA CEO Sara Fletcher, PhD, subsequently answered Fellows’ questions regarding the Association’s new Strategic Plan and key issues for PA education, including a proposed entry-level doctoral degree. The day concluded with a presentation from 2021 Student Health Policy Fellow Kamilah Crawford on the advocacy panel she convened to fulfill the community-based project requirement to complete her fellowship.

The second day of the workshop prepared students to engage directly in advocacy, providing key perspectives on leadership for PAs involved in health policy. The day began with a presentation from PAEA’s Government Relations staff on the Association’s federal policy priorities, followed by a session from PAEA Board member Virginia Valentin, DrPH, PA-C, on the lessons she’s learned about balancing leadership activities with clinical and educational responsibilities. Jack DiMatteo, MPP, a Senior Legislative Assistant in the office of Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, then provided the students with tips on how to effectively engage with congressional staff. Michael Huckabee, PhD, MPAS, PA-C, discussed his role as a PA representative on the HHS Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. Staff members from Polsinelli, LLC, one of PAEA’s long-standing advocacy partners, ended the day by discussing current legislative action in Congress and the steps necessary for a successful meeting on Capitol Hill.

On the final day of the workshop, the Fellows participated in advocacy meetings with their elected representatives’ offices in support of the Physician Assistant Higher Education Modernization Act and the Physician Assistant Education Public Health Initiatives Act. If enacted, these bills would restore access to subsidized Stafford loans for PA students, promote access to existing federal aid for minority-serving institutions interested in developing PA programs, and expand clinical rotation opportunities in underserved practice settings.