PAEA Hosts First Virtual Student Health Policy Fellowship

Earlier this month, PAEA continued the tradition of cultivating the next generation of leaders in PA education policy and advocacy by welcoming the seventh cohort of fellows to the first-ever virtual Student Health Policy Fellowship workshop.

Because of the high level of student interest in recent years, the 2020–21 Student Health Policy Fellowship cohort is the first to be expanded from the traditional size of 14 fellows to 20. This expansion was included as part of the fiscal year 2021 budget approved by the PAEA Board of Directors in an effort to further broaden the impact of the fellowship’s community-based advocacy projects and to bolster the pipeline of future leaders for the profession.

A Busy Agenda
The first day of the virtual workshop kicked off with a series of lectures focused on PA policy priorities. Following a round of introductions, Government Relations Steering Committee Chair Michael DeRosa, PhD, MPH, PA-C, provided the fellows with an overview of the Association’s advocacy agenda and high-level goals. AAPA Senior Director of State Advocacy and Outreach Stephanie Radix, JD, followed with a presentation focusing on the work of AAPA, state chapters, and constituent organizations on state-level priorities such as the 6 Key Elements of a Modern PA Practice Act and Optimal Team Practice. Complementing Radix’s lecture, AAPA Vice President of Federal Advocacy Tate Heuer addressed AAPA’s federal policy priorities such as the PA Direct Payment Act and the Promoting Access to Diabetic Shoes Act, and then Director of Grassroots and Political Advocacy Kristin Butterfield spoke about effective grassroots engagement strategies.

In addition to lectures from experts on PA policy, the first day also consisted of speakers providing perspectives from the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Former Assistant Director for Public Health at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Saibatu Mansaray, MS, PA-C, spoke about her experience as a PA in a federal leadership role and her work to combat the national opioid use disorder epidemic. Mansaray was followed by Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL) Jack DiMatteo, MPP, who talked about the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, Representative Underwood’s work to combat maternal health disparities, and the importance of new investments in perinatal workforce development.

The second day of the fellowship focused on PA education policy and advocacy best practices. Following a presentation on the PAEA’s specific legislative priorities, Polsinelli Associate James Fleischmann, JD, spoke about the current landscape in Washington and provided step-by-step guidance on how to conduct advocacy meetings. Fleischmann was followed by PAEA CEO Mary Jo Bondy, DHEd, MHS, PA-C, who addressed diversity and inclusion and the impact of COVID-19 on PA education, and PAEA Chief Policy and Research Officer Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-C who shared his experience as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow in the office of Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). Providing a student perspective, 2019 Student Health Policy Fellow Sydney Adams discussed how she was able to successfully complete her advocacy project, which involved facilitating a virtual program visit with her representative, Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA).

Advocacy in Action
After completing breakout sessions to brainstorm possible project ideas and practice their advocacy meeting approaches, the fellows participated in the culminating event of the workshop, conducting over 37 calls with the staff of their elected representatives. Each fellow asked their representatives to support two key priorities for PAEA: the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act and the Physician Assistant Higher Education Modernization Act. These PAEA priorities would improve student loan borrowing terms for PA students, make critical investments in student diversity, and fund infrastructure improvements for PA programs.

Over the course of the next year, all 20 fellows will complete a community-based advocacy project integrating the skills gained as a result of the workshop experience. PAEA’s Government Relations team would like to thank the 2020–21 Student Health Policy Fellowship cohort for their participation and engagement in this year’s virtual workshop.