Students Prepare to Advocate at Capitol Hill Day

August 1, 2023
Authored by
Natalie Sipes at White House

Students in the entry-level doctor of occupational therapy program completed the Systems and Advocacy summer course in preparation for the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Hill Day. 

The course evaluates the socioeconomic, political, geographic, and demographic factors on the delivery of occupational therapy services while Hill Day allows students and practitioners to lobby elected officials in Congress on policy issues that impact occupational therapy (OT) practice, and people and communities, across the continuum of care.

“The class was a great way to combine everything that we have learned from previous semesters with policy. We had to think about the whole systems, stakeholders, and representatives,” said Molly Doughtery.

The final project included a presentation directed at a policy maker to promote the profession of OT and an assignment to create promotional materials about the addressed issue.

“This project gives students the opportunity to use their voice to support the profession and then make a tangible impact on Capitol Hill, which is only 4 miles away,” said assistant professor Kellie Sawyer OTD, OTR/L.

Diverse clients, groups, populations and communities were analyzed for social determinants of health which prepared students to promote health equity and occupational justice.

“The mock meeting helped embed us into the governmental system and helped us identify OT’s role within advocating for our clients. This course definitely prepared us for Hill Day and gave us an overview and scope of how systems impact an individual's health and healthcare,” said Alexis Clapper.

“The students dressed professionally, discussed relevant issues, and shared personal anecdotes which were very impactful. I expect them to leave behind a really positive feeling at the congressional meetings and hopefully establish an ongoing relationship,” said Sheila Moyle OTD, MOT, OTR/L, assistant professor and doctoral capstone coordinator.

Natalie Sipes, who targeted Senator Warner of Virginia to vote yes on the Occupational Therapy Mental Health Parity Act, explained, “this would improve mental and behavioral health outcomes for all states, create more jobs for OTs, show that OTs belong in mental health interprofessional teams, and most importantly, help those that are struggling with their mental health and substance use in ways that can completely transform their lives.” 

Watch Natalie Sipes’s Hill Day presentation on Instagram.

The AOTA Annual Hill Day will be held on Friday, September 29, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

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