The Des Moines University legislative breakfast, held Jan. 24, 2017, brought together students and lawmakers at the Iowa State Capitol in an effort to raise the profile of issues vital to osteopathic medical education and to provide future health care professionals with experience in advocacy.
“Building a relationship with our elected officials is important, and it was wonderful to see our students experiencing first-hand the impact by advocating for their profession,” says Susan Huppert, chief external affairs and government relations Officer at Des Moines University.
“Iowa’s senior U.S. senator, Charles Grassley, often makes the point that it is important to have your relationships well established before issues come to light so that when matters do arise, you can quickly put into action a plan to address the situation,” she adds. “It is also important to build your own credibility as someone our elected officials come to as a subject-matter expert.”
The students convened at the Capitol before dawn and were able to meet dozens of state legislators and lobbyists.
“As a podiatry student, I need to learn to communicate with politicians on my career’s behalf,” says Edee Wildman, D.P.M.’20. “This event allows me to meet and discuss topics with policymakers successfully. It was nice to a discuss important issues in a low-stress environment.”
Students saw the opportunity as a confidence-builder, and many engaged in health care issues that are being debated in the legislative session.
“I like getting the chance to practice working with lawmakers as a medical student, because as physicians, state laws impact practice immensely,” says Michelle Brenner, D.O.’19. “I feel more prepared to talk with legislators in the future.”
Students also had the opportunity to thank legislators and Governor Terry Branstad for passing legislation during the previous session that prevents offshore medical schools (many of which are unaccredited) from purchasing residencies in Iowa. That law will preserve the quality of care for Iowans and strengthen the pipeline of future providers for the state.
DMU’s legislative agenda for the 2017 session includes requests for state appropriations for new residency programs in fields of greatest need in Iowa and for the Forgivable Loan Program, which was passed in the 2012 session and partially funded in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Legislators from the Iowa House and Senate enjoyed the opportunity to meet with students, who soon will be working to address the challenges in health care and improve the wellness of their constituents.