Leadership Blog Series – DC-FLI: Bringing Our Medicine to New Heights

This past weekend I had an incredible time working with my fellow student colleagues and naturopathic doctors Washington D.C. for the American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s (AANP) DC Federal Legislative Initiative (DC-FLI).  This was my second time attending DC-FLI and it won’t be my last. AANP’s annual event provides an excellent opportunity to network with other students and doctors while we work to bring our medicine to new heights at the federal level.

DC-FLI also provides exceptional educational experiences. This year, the FLI started off with a seminar entitled “Natural Approaches to Chronic Pain: Effective Alternatives to Opioids.” With our nation confronting an opioid epidemic, our naturopathic modalities used to treat chronic pain couldn’t come at a more important time. This integrative seminar featured many notable speakers all who have had first-hand experience with managing opioid abuse, be it in a clinic or at a national level. The AANP provided great information on studies demonstrating just exactly how naturopathic medicine provides safe and effective therapies to relieve pain. One handout in particular provided material on how licensed naturopathic doctors can approach opioid addiction through prevention and treatment.  Another benefit about the seminar involved being an NMSA member; the regular rate for the seminar was $250 for AANP members. However, because NMSA membership includes dual AANP membership and AANP allows its student members to attend DC-FLI for free, the seminar was free for NMSA members! (As VP of Membership, I can’t pass up the opportunity to tout membership benefits).

Of course, the main reason we were in Washington D.C. was to support AANP’s legislative initiatives. Every year, the AANP has a specific legislative request. This year, our main focus was on parity. Although federal law prohibits the discrimination of health care service providers, states have not received sufficient guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on how to enforce this U.S. Code. Our request was simple: have our Representative or Senator send a letter to the Secretary of HHS asking that he issue a statement to clarify. I’m pleased to report that according to the AANP, two Members of Congress directly agreed to sign this letter and another letter to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).  These two Members are Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) & Rep. Bobbi Rush (D-IL). If either one of these two Members is your Representative, please makes sure to write a letter to thank them for their support.

As I previously mentioned, there was another letter to the VA that we were asking for support. Currently, the VA doesn’t have an employment code for naturopathic doctors. Without an employment code, NDs cannot be hired by the VA nor reimbursed for services provided through the VA. Last year AANP provided a white paper to the VA clarifying the benefits NDs can provide for our veterans and the different roles they could serve. Considering that nearly two-thirds of veterans have stated that they would prefer a doctor who prescribes natural therapies before considering drugs or surgery (according to AANP’s March 2015 survey), I think it can be safe to say that having NDs work in the VA is a win-win for all involved.

So are you wondering how you can help?  It’s not too late! You can email your Representative and your Senator and ask them to support the AANP’s legislative requests. You can find those here: http://www.naturopathic.org/lac#/.  Also, please consider attending DC-FLI next year or make sure you are a member of your state’s naturopathic doctor association. More than likely, they have their own requests at the state level and I’m sure your presence would be greatly needed and appreciated at your state lobby day. At the very least, you could be prepared to send letters to your state legislature when needed. If I’ve learned one thing from DC FLI it’s that every voice matters. Knowing how important our medicine is to our community, how can we not work to spread the Vis?

 

Dawn Alden

NMSA VP of Membership

 

About Dawn:

Dawn is a San Diego native. She is currently a third-year student at Bastyr University (San Diego, CA) with an anticipated graduation year of 2018. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of California (Santa Barbara) where she majored in Biology and Philosophy. She became active in the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) during her second year at Bastyr University, when she learnt about opportunities to promote naturopathic medicine. She spends her free time with family, enjoying San Diego’s beautiful outdoors, yoga, Zumba, and tending to her three chickens.

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