Over one-hundred fifty students (150) from a variety of health disciplines, including nursing, medicine, social work, and physical therapy enjoyed the first of its kind Student Healthcare Policy Forum, hosted by West Central Indiana Area Health Education Center (WCI-AHEC) and Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health (Lugar Center), this past Tuesday, October 1st. The forum provided an occasion for local students to share in a conversation with elected officials who are helping to shape the future of healthcare through legislation.
“The Wabash Valley is fortunate to have outstanding elected officials who’ve dedicated their lives to public service. President Kennedy’s statement of ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ can be interpreted differently by you or me. It is even more important nowadays during which hyper-partisanship and lack of civil discourse seem to be the norm.” Dr. Jim Turner, Lugar Center Medical Director.
Congressman Larry Bucshon (Ind. 8th), Senator Jon Ford (Dist. 38), Representative Bob Heaton (Dist. 46), and State Representative Tonya Pfaff (Dist. 43) were in attendance and noted that today’s news does not accurately reflect the reality of collaboration that occurs among elected officials. While philosophical disagreements exist, there is agreement on more than 90% of issues impacting Hoosiers on a daily manner. In addition to sharing about their roles, officials took the opportunity to discuss their favorite areas around Terre Haute in addition to addressing significant policy issues impacting the Wabash Valley, such as the opioid epidemic and the current state of the Department of Child Services.
“To improve our community, it is important for all of us to become better advocates. It’s important that we understand that advocacy can be effective and simple and all we have to do is to ask our members of Congress/Legislature and their staff to understand our respective situations, they can then do the rest.” said Daniel Hardesty of the Lugar Center.
Many of the legislators shared a common desire to improve their community as their reason for pursuing public office, noting it can oftentimes be a thankless job and take a toll on your family life. Students were encouraged to become more active, since decisions impacting their lives and careers are being made by “part-time legislators” who are often experts in other fields.
“When it comes to healthcare policy, we need well-informed
individuals advocating for their professions. By bringing them together early on as students, we hope to empower them to affect change within their future profession.” said WCI-AHEC Director, Jackie Mathis. The forum also included policy experts and advocates who themselves have worked to impact healthcare policy.