Advocacy in action

The DO Day experience: Why advocacy means so much as a physician

As a family medicine resident in New York City, I understand how much the people in my community directly benefit from THCGME programs.


My first DO Day was during medical school and due to COVID-19, it was virtual. I sat out on the porch of my apartment in Dothan, Alabama, with my laptop and a smoothie. I then watched physicians from around the country share why advocating for our patients and our profession was so important. 

At the time, I was just learning what advocacy really was, and what it meant to me. Now that I’m a resident with a little more understanding of our healthcare system and the challenges physicians face just to be able to do their jobs, I’m really excited to participate in this year’s DO Day. Not only will I have the opportunity to listen to other speakers during the virtual part of the event, but this year, I’ll be able to speak to students myself about one of the AOA’s advocacy priorities – the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program.  

The THCGME program is important to me because it supports primary care medical and dental residency programs in our communities. It seems like every year, primary care is declining while health disparities are not. And the wait for a primary care physician certainly isn’t getting any shorter. The National Institute of Health estimates there will be a shortage of over 23,000 primary care physicians by 2025. As a family medicine resident in New York City, I understand how much the people in my community directly benefit from THCGME programs. Here’s some information about THCGME programs so that you, too, can advocate for them this year:

  • The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) first funded the program in 2010.
  • THCGME programs train residents in outpatient settings in the community, such as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). Their goal is to provide more primary care physicians for the people and places that have the most need for them.
  • THCs focus on specific areas of primary care such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and geriatrics, in addition to dentistry. 
  • From 2020 to 2021, nearly all residents at THCs received training in a primary care setting, and 93% trained in a medically underserved or rural community. 
  • THC clinics provide care to a largely low-income, Medicaid-covered population.
  • HRSA awarded over $155 million to 72 THCs to train over 960 residents for the 2022-23 academic year.

THCGME programs don’t last forever. Without students and physicians advocating to Congress for them to continue, they expire. This is why it’s so important that we continue to support them with our advocacy at events like DO Day. This year, DO Day will have both virtual and in-person events. The virtual conference will be April 15-16, 2023. The in-person congressional meetings will be April 19-20, 2023.

You can still register to participate virtually, in-person or both. In addition to advocating for THCGME programs, I’ll also be advocating for student loans forgiveness programs and Medicare physician payment reform. I hope you’ll join me. 

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:

Physician advocacy: Tips for communicating with legislators via phone, letters and face-to-face

New Year’s advocacy resolutions

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