Ohio State University Students Make 6th Annual Trip to Capitol Hill
In late February, a group of passionate and determined Doctor of Audiology students from the Ohio State University (OSU) were back in Washington, DC for the sixth time. These students shared a common goal to advocate for national policies on hearing health care and education, and further educate their legislative representatives on the profession of audiology.
On Thursday, February 22nd, 18 students from the OSU Chapter of the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) 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 involved. Students were accompanied by members of the American Academy of Audiology government relations department including, Kate Thomas, Adam Finkel, and Rebecca West. This trip marked the sixth consecutive year that students from OSU have funded, planned, and accomplished an advocacy trip to DC. The trip is funded through student fundraisers and a generous donation from the OSU Department of Speech and Hearing Science.
Students met with key congressional offices including Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and a number of Ohio House offices.
They discussed their concerns with and opposition to provisions included in the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508), legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. These provisions would set a borrowing gap 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 health care 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.
Izabela Jamsek, a first-year AuD/PhD student stated, “This year was my first year participating in an advocacy trip to DC, and I felt as though I really got to see the value of advocacy in action. The worth of these repeated visits is apparent in the development of relationships with legislators and their increasing comfort with discussing audiology-related issues. Staffers that we had met with previously remembered our previous visits as well as the impact of audiology-related legislation on their constituents. Additionally, staffers who we had never met with before became familiar with audiology as a profession and who encompasses our patient population within their constituency.”
James DeBacker, a third-year AuD/PhD student stated, “I’ve enjoyed coming and getting to learn that lobbying isn’t always a seedy backdoor deal involving large amount of cash, but also involves meeting directly with members of Congress and their staff to help educate them about my favorite topic- Audiology. During one meeting this year, a congresswoman’s health care staffer not only remembered us from previous years, but also indicated interest in raising public awareness about Word Hearing Day and working with the Academy on specific legislation relating to pediatric access to amplification. I was so excited to see the congresswoman’s Facebook post about World Hearing Day and I look forward to hearing more about legislative action that’s taken as a result of our time on Capitol Hill.”
Jillian Chapman, a second-year doctor of audiology student stated, “Advocacy is something that I’m very passionate about, and this was such a wonderful opportunity to represent the profession of audiology. It was great to feel like my voice was being heard by my representatives.”
Brittney Carter, a third-year AuD/PhD student stated, “The trip to Capitol Hill is the event I look forward to every year here at Ohio State, because it is an opportunity to step into the professional shoes I am working so hard for. Being able to directly impact my profession and my patients in such a relevant way is truly fulfilling, and always motivates me to keep charging forward in my education inside and outside of my university.”
The students at OSU recognize that advocacy is an important component of the field of audiology. Within the six years that OSU students have embarked on an advocacy trip to Capitol Hill, they have developed lasting relationships with key congressional offices. Students aim to promote a better understanding among elected officials of the importance of audiology in the delivery of high-quality hearing and balance care. These students want to ensure that the profession of audiology remains well-represented on Capitol Hill.