NOAC and Ohio University Students Visit Capitol Hill
In late March, a multi-university coalition group of Ohio Audiology students traveled to Washington, DC to advocate for national policies on hearing health care and education with a goal to further educate their legislative representatives on the profession of Audiology. This was the Northeast Ohio AuD Consortium’s (NOAC) second and Ohio University’s (OU) first trip to Capitol Hill.
On Friday, March 23nd, six students from NOAC and three students from OU traveled to Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of the profession, patients, and graduate students across the nation. The group included those with previous experience speaking with legislators as well as first-timers looking to become more knowledgeable of the issues and get involved with advocacy. Students were accompanied by members of the American Academy of Audiology’s government relations department, including Kate Thomas, Adam Finkel, and Rebecca West. This trip was largely self-funded, however, financial support from both SAA chapters was greatly appreciated and generous.
Students met with key congressional offices including Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and a number of Ohio House offices.
The students voiced their concerns with and opposition to two provisions included in the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508), legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. These provisions would set a borrowing cap of $28,500 per year for students in graduate programs, as well as, a proposal to phase out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Students emphasized support for efforts to lower the cost of academic programs but expressed concern that this solution may dissuade students from obtaining Audiology graduate degrees at a time when communities are increasingly in need of Audiologic services.
Students advocated for the Access to Frontline Health Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 2042) which would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program under which HHS would make student loan repayments in exchange for health professionals providing two years of service in a healthcare facility serving a frontline scarcity area.
This year’s trip also included the promotion of World Hearing Day (March 3rd), for which designation was recently supported in the 115th Congress (H.Res. 740). World Hearing Day aims to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care across the world. The theme for World Hearing Day 2018 was, “Hear the future…and prepare for it.” Students presented legislative representatives with information on the causes of hearing loss, how to avoid hearing loss, and warning signs of hearing loss in children and adults.
Taylor Kuminkoski, a third-year OU AuD student stated, “This was Ohio University’s first trip to the Hill and it was a success. It was my first experience with advocating and I learned so much. The staff was very kind and truly interested in what us as students and young professionals had to say. It was amazing to see what the staff knew about Audiology, how it has impacted their personal lives, and connecting it all together with legislation. So I enjoyed meeting and educating the staff on my profession. The collaboration with NOAC was a lot of fun and I had a wonderful time getting to know those students. Also, AAA was kind and more than helpful with this entire trip. All in all, I love teaching others about audiology, advocating for our field, and was proud to represent Ohio.”
Elizabeth Terak, a third-year AuD student from NOAC reported, “I am so grateful that I was fortunate enough to travel to Capitol Hill two years in a row. This experience was memorable and rewarding both times. I learned that advocating for issues in my profession is not only necessary but also not as intimidating as I thought it would be. I, along with my classmates, love sharing our passion for Audiology and helping people. Not only was collaborating with OU a lot of fun but getting the first-year doctoral students involved in advocacy was also exciting. I hope our efforts this year continue to strengthen and build through our younger Audiology student peers. Advocating is truly fun when it is for something you love!”