Creating change

DO Day 2024: Advocating for student loan reform, health care worker safety and more

DO Day attendee Margo Winter, OMS III, shares a recap of this year’s event and policy asks.


For many osteopathic medical students, their first time experiencing DO Day is a whirlwind of emotions. It is an extremely exciting event, but being a first-time participant can also be nerve-wracking. DO Day provides attendees with a rare opportunity to actively engage in advocacy and witness firsthand the impact DOs and osteopathic medical students can have on shaping health care policies.

During DO Day legislative meetings, members of the osteopathic medical profession promote patient-centered care, preventive medicine and holistic health approaches. It is a must-attend event for all aspiring advocates of osteopathic medicine.

As a 2024 DO Day attendee, I wanted to share a recap of the event and encourage others to consider attending in 2025.

Virtual sessions

Before traveling to D.C., you will have an opportunity to prepare and learn about advocacy with DO Day’s virtual programming. Online sessions are often held the weekend before in-person DO Day. They are an excellent opportunity for aspiring physicians to engage in advocacy leadership and learn about policies pertinent to the medical field. There are specialized tracks for medical students, physicians and affiliate leaders, and physician participants can earn continuing medical education (CME) credits.

The student track is tailored toward your role as a medical trainee. You can expect a curriculum covering a wide range of topics, including health care legislation, regulatory issues and your role in shaping health care policies. Each session is designed to equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to be an effective leader in health care advocacy.

For busy medical students, one of the key benefits of virtual programming is its accessibility. Participating in the program from anywhere allows you to gain valuable learning experiences without traveling to Washington, D.C. This not only saves you time and resources but also provides for greater inclusivity, as individuals from diverse backgrounds and locations can participate.

What to expectDay one

On the first day of DO Day meetings in Washington, D.C., the energy is infectious. Before presentations kick off, participants gather in small groups around coffee stations, mingling with other students, residents and physicians from across the country.

Once the doors open, advocacy training begins. First-time students may initially feel overwhelmed and nervous about attending advocacy meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill. Quickly, however, they are met with the reassurance that they already have the necessary skills to advocate effectively. They also learn that personal experiences are the most important tool they can bring to these meetings.

This is the day to get prepped and ask questions, so expect to be seated by state; it’s possible you’ll be with students from the same college of osteopathic medicine (COM) or with students from other COMs who have hometowns in your state. The table is rounded out with accompanying residents and physicians who have been to DO Day many times before, making them ideal guides and mentors for the week.

This is the perfect time to share a meal, get to know your DO Day team and devise a plan for the next day. 

What to expectDay two

The second day begins with a brunch followed by a group photo capturing the spirit of unity among DO Day participants. With everyone wearing their white coats (and, just as important, comfortable shoes), the walk to the Capitol turns into an energetic sea of white. Students are seen clutching their folders with advocacy information, ready to engage directly with policymakers and advocate for health care issues that are relevant to them and the osteopathic profession.

Once meetings begin for the day, expect a flurry of activity as you navigate the halls of Congress, meeting with legislators and their staff to discuss pressing health care issues. From addressing disparities in health care access to advocating for graduate medical education (GME) funding, each conversation is an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the future of medicine. 

As a student, you’ll be well-supported by the other advocates in your state. Taking turns discussing topics in meetings helps you gain confidence throughout the day. You will learn how our congressional offices work by meeting with legislators and staffers who are knowledgeable about health care policy. Oftentimes, they will offer real-time feedback.

It’s also a chance to explain your profession to someone new. Not every health care staffer understands the ins and outs of osteopathic medicine specifically. In addition to policy advocacy, you get to enlighten them about the principles and practices that define the osteopathic profession. All of this fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation for osteopathic medicine among policymakers on Capitol Hill.

2024 policy asks

This year, advocates brought three main topics to the hill. First, they advocated for student loan reform by urging lawmakers to support the REDI (Resident Education Deferred Interest) Act. The REDI Act would allow residents to defer their student loan payments until the completion of their program; residents would also not accrue interest on those loans until after they are done with their training.

The high student loan burden and continued accrual of interest on loans while still in residency training can keep some physicians from pursuing careers in certain specialties and from practicing in rural and underserved areas.

Second, advocates asked representatives to co-sponsor the SAVE (Safety from Violence for Health care Employees) Act, which would offer health care professionals the same federal protections as airline employees while ensuring protection for patients in a mental health crisis.

Given the increasing incidents of violence and harassment against health care workers, especially during public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, advocating for legislation like the SAVE Act becomes paramount. This legislation offers specific legal protections to safeguard health care professionals’ physical and mental wellbeing, ultimately promoting a safer work environment and ensuring uninterrupted delivery of services.

Finally, advocates discussed the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, asking lawmakers to co-sponsor a bill to establish stable, annual payment updates to the fee schedule based on the Medicare Economic Index (MEI). Advocating for fair and equitable reimbursement rates is essential to ensuring that physicians can continue providing high-quality care to Medicare beneficiaries without financial hardships.

When physician reimbursement rates more closely reflect the true cost of providing medical services, especially in rural and underserved areas, it can lead to a more sustainable health care system that adequately compensates physicians for their expertise and services, ultimately benefiting patients and health care professionals alike.

Takeaways from my experience

Amid the hustle and bustle, there are moments of inspiration that leave a lasting impression. Meeting with representatives who share a passion for health care reform and hearing their commitment to supporting osteopathic medicine can be incredibly motivating. These interactions serve as a reminder of the importance of advocacy and the power of collective action in effecting change. For students, DO Day is not only an opportunity to advocate for their profession, but also a chance to gain valuable experience in health care policy and advocacy.

It provides a platform for students to develop their leadership skills, cultivate relationships with policymakers and become active participants in shaping the future of osteopathic medicine. DO Day is a time to feel proud and accomplished as you realize the difference you can make.

One of the most impactful aspects of DO Day is the opportunity to connect with other osteopathic medical students. Coming together as a unified voice, students share their experiences, insights and aspirations. These connections foster not just camaraderie, but also a deep sense of solidarity, reinforcing the collective mission to advocate for the betterment of health care for everyone.

Transformation is possible

DO Day is a transformative experience that embodies the spirit of advocacy and inspiration. It offers you the opportunity to advocate for health care issues important to osteopathic medicine, connect with representatives and fellow students and make a tangible impact.

As students and advocates come together in Washington, D.C., they are not just participants but also empowered agents of change, championing the principles of osteopathic medicine for generations to come. Just don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes!

Editor’s note: DO Day on Demand is available through June 14, 2024. Attendees can earn up to 12 hours of AOA Category 1-A credit or AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

The post-DO Day momentum: Advocating for the issues you care about

Taking a holistic approach to voting in the 2024 election

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