On Capitol Hill as an OT Student
October 4, 2019
By Hannah Na
Last Monday, I attended the AOTA Hill Day in DC with some of my OT classmates and Dr. Beth Pyatak. What is Hill Day you ask? Hill Day is a day when hundreds of occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students get together on Capitol Hill to educate our congressional representatives on the breadth and depth of OT, as well as advocate for current issues and legislations impacting the profession. I believe it is important for OTs to have a collective voice in advocating for our profession and the populations we work with, so it was amazing to be a part of this experience!
What motivated me to attend?
As a second year student in the Master’s Program, I have been thinking a lot about my career aspirations and what type of OT I aspire to be. I am not 100% sure what practice area I want to go into or what population I want to work with, but I can say with certainty that I plan to continue developing relationships with my communities and advocating for causes that I am passionate about, such as social justice, accessible healthcare, mental health, and education. By attending Hill Day, I wanted to grow my skills in advocacy and develop the ability to have influence in my communities. As a future OT, I also know how important it is to promote my chosen profession and make sure OTs have a seat at the table when policy decisions get made.
What did I learn?
1. There is power in my voice. I tend to be introverted and get super anxious about public speaking, so it was initially intimidating for me to speak up. However, I pushed myself to find my voice. During a meeting at Representative Jimmy Gomez’s office, my friend, Janis, and I shared personal stories about why issues, such access to mental health and having a diverse healthcare workforce, are important to us. Through this experience, I learned that I’m not “just a student.” I am knowledgeable about OT and have a lot to say.
2. There is power in numbers, especially when it comes to advocacy. It was inspiring to see so many people together in one place at the same time doing the same thing: advocating for OT. Walking around the Hill, I would see people with “AOTA Hill Day 2019” pins walking (and sometimes running!) from meeting to meeting, and I felt proud to be in their company. I also had a great time meeting and spending time with other OT students and OTs from across the US!
3. There is power in speaking from the heart. During one of my meetings, I lost my words and did not deliver the most poised pitch. However, I learned that the point of advocacy is not to be perfect but rather to bring awareness to issues that matter and to speak passionately from the heart. I learned that it’s more effective to be passionate than perfect.
Whether you are a prospective student applying to the bachelor’s/master’s program, a current student interested in obtaining your OTD or PhD, or just a reader curious about OT, I challenge you to ask yourself, “what are the causes I am passionate about?”, and start having conversations with people about those causes. After all, that is the first step in advocacy.