Dr. Shawheen S. Saffari
St. Barnabas Hospital Class of 2021
Participating in the AAO Advocacy Day was an incredible experience, providing perspective in what the association does on Capitol Hill and how those efforts aid its members. Representing the AAO as an orthodontic resident and bringing the hurdles we as a group face, primarily student debt, to the attention of members of Congress and their staff was a privilege. Championing legislation such as the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act was especially personal and important, as the act would allow residents to not accrue interest while in deferment. Any and all help towards solving the student loan crisis is welcome, and being part of a team communicating directly to legislators was superb.
Overall the experience was an excellent one, and proved to me that we as residents can be heard on the national scale. Advocating for the betterment of our career along with the care of our patients, the conference reinforced my outlook that the future of our specialty is dependent on its members engaging with legislators on both the local and national scale. I’m proud to say I belong to a specialty that strives to make a positive difference not just in oral health, but in Washington too.
Dr. George Bork
Harvard School of Dental Medicine Class of 2020
This February, I had the honor and privilege of representing the American Association of Orthodontists at the AAO’s 2020 Professional Advocacy Conference. On Capitol Hill, AAO members advocated for legislation focused on easing the burden of student loan debt and improving healthcare policy. Advocates asked congressional leaders to pass the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act (H.R.1554), a bill which would provide interest-free deferment for all orthodontic students while in residency, and the Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act (H.R.3334), which would permit unused Pell Grant dollars to be applied toward graduate programs. To promote patient access to care, we encouraged members of congress to pass the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (S.560/H.R.1379), which would require all group and individual health plans to cover medically necessary services related to the diagnosis and treatment of congenital anomalies and birth defects, ensuring that all patients with these conditions receive the treatment they need. Finally, to strengthen and expand consumer-directed healthcare options, congressional leaders were encouraged to pass the RAISE Health Benefits Act (S.503/H.R.1366), which would increase the cap on FSA contributions, allow additional contributions for larger families, and remove the “use-it-or-lose-it rule.” As a longtime political enthusiast, but first time activist, I was highly encouraged by the level of support our efforts were met with. Please consider keeping the momentum going by calling your local representatives to further advocate for these important, bipartisan bills!