FIGURE 2. Vanderbilt University students (left to right) Sarah Alfieri, Liz Agboola, Steven Carter, and Maureen Virts.
The third annual National Day at Your State Capital Day (NDAYSCD) brought audiology doctoral students together from across the country to advocate for the profession of audiology and for the patients they serve. NDAYSCD takes place each spring to encourage and support students to be advocates in their states and to improve their professional skills of decision making, leadership, self-motivation, and the ability to work under pressure. Another goal of NDAYSCD is to increase public awareness of audiology and to increase the awareness of our elected officials on important audiology issues, specifically at the state level.
Students are encouraged to contact their state elected officials to meet with them or their staff members personally to educate them on the importance of audiology and on audiology-related issues within their state borders. Advocating allows students to increase public awareness of audiology as a doctoral profession, enhance their personal skills in public speaking, access professional networking, and explore new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.
Advocating in one’s state can be daunting, but “once you realize that the biggest part of advocacy is education, the whole process becomes a lot less scary,” said Nicole Greewalt, an AuD student at Ohio State University. “It is actually much easier than you think to let your passion drive a productive conversation with a state legislator and effectively foster lasting relationships for the profession. The offices we met with were extremely receptive to our message of establishing quality hearing and balance health care for all Ohioans and I am excited to witness how these relationships grow as our state SAA base becomes stronger and more active.”
NDAYSCD brings states and graduate students together to make regulatory changes and to form professional relationships (see FIGURE 1). Deema Rasul, an AuD student at the University of Cincinnati called the event “a major highlight in my graduate career so far. It was a very humbling experience to meet with a variety of Ohio House representatives and senators and be the first to inform them about what audiology is, what is within our scope of practice, and issues that are important to our profession as a whole. I loved answering all their pressing questions about the field and how they can help on issues important to us.
“One of my favorite events that day was when the entire NDAYSCD group of graduate students from the University of Cincinnati, the Ohio State University, and the Northeast Ohio AuD Consortium got to meet with a representative for [United States] Sen. Sherrod Brown. Being able to advocate for our future profession with other graduate students who all had the same passion as I did about our field and to represent the Student Academy of Audiology together on this day was incredible. Seeing everyone speak about their experiences in audiology and why these issues are important to them and the patients that we see was really inspiring to me and made me feel proud to be in this field with my future colleagues,” Rasul said.
This event, which brings so many together, unites our field and is important for continuing the strong traditions already established within the profession. Kayla Cyphert, an AuD student at the University of Cincinnati, said, “It was great to have the opportunity to meet with legislators and staffers to raise awareness of audiology. I felt that I made a difference by advocating for our profession and our patients.” Making a difference is as simple as a visit to discuss and educate others who make our laws, affect our profession, and affect the care we provide.
Through SAA channels, students in other states teamed up with their state professional organizations to make an impact. Steven Carter, an AuD student at Vanderbilt University, describes their collaboration: “Audiology students from Vanderbilt teamed up with the Tennessee Association of Audiologists and Speech–Language Pathologists (TAASLP) to meet individually with representatives about legislation to repeal the Professional Privilege Tax (PPT), a $400 fee paid yearly by some, but not all, professionals in the state of Tennessee. Students paired up with audiologists and SLPs to speak with individual legislators at the Tennessee state capitol and give testimony about how the PPT is an unfair barrier for practicing audiologists and SLPs. Although a repeal is unlikely to be approved within this year, I feel we were able to better inform representatives about the profession of audiology and give them some compassionate testimony and factual evidence on how the PPT could be seen as a hindrance to practicing professionals.” (See FIGURE 2.)
Advocacy is a necessity in our profession. We are the experts and it is our responsibility to represent ourselves in our communities, states, and nationally. Decisions are made without our expertise and they can directly affect the patient care we provide. It is imperative that we have a seat at the table when it comes time to decide on our fate. NDAYSCD allows for students to advocate and perhaps continue advocating for their careers. Alexander Morris, an AuD student at the University of Texas at Dallas, took his NDAYSCD even further with a trip to Washington, D.C.
“Our recent DC trip provided students with a career-changing perspective on audiology advocacy and the Academy’s daily efforts to keep the profession moving forward. This was the first exposure to in-person advocacy for many of the students and, after the trip, all of them said they felt more confident in their advocacy abilities and were fired up to continue making a difference,” Morris said (see FIGURE 3).
Many students who were unable to make a trip to their state capitals participated in a virtual way. The AuD students at the University of Wisconsin discussed the importance of advocacy, both for professionals and for patient populations, within Wisconsin. Emily Wilson and Julia Gajewski contacted their Wisconsin elected officials via e-mail and letters to express their stance on current state legislation. They also educated each other and their peers on how to schedule, plan, and conduct a successful legislative visit.
For more information, contact the SAA Public Outreach Committee. To check the Student Academy’s resources, and the Academy’s resources go to the website and look under Advocacy and the Legislative Action Center.
We all are advocates. It is up to us to educate, advocate, and be the voice of audiology.