Kyle McLafferty kept one eye on his classwork and another on the legislative process during the latest legislative session in Jefferson City, Missouri.
The second-year physician assistant student at the UMKC School of Medicine realized an interest in politics and health care policy during his undergrad days at the University of Missouri. His brother, Sean, a political science major at MU at the same time, was a major driving force in Kyle’s developing interest.
Now, he was following the process as it took place with the potential to affect his future.
“I really got interested in physician assistant legislation during this past legislative session in Jefferson City,” McLafferty said. “There were a few bills in the legislature that we talked about in class. We were tracking those bills and it was interesting watching the legislative process and how it relates to my future career.”
In September, McLafferty got a first-hand view of the process on a national level when he visited Washington, D.C., as a member of this year’s Physician Assistant Education Association Student Health Policy Fellowship. The yearlong program provides fellows the opportunity to learn more about health policy and advocacy in promoting the physician assistant profession.
Fifteen members of the Physician Assistant Education Association were selected from programs across the country. The fellowship began with a three-day workshop and visit to the nation’s capital.
Fellows spent one day learning about legislative policy, bills and issues being discussed in Congress, and how to best state their case as advocates for the physician assistant profession. The next day, McLafferty met with three of Missouri’s congressional representatives: Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, and Representative Emanuel Cleaver. They discussed issues ranging from diversity to physician assistant education and education funding.
“We’ve learned in school about how the legislative process works, but you don’t really learn the politics of it, the hurdles that come up, the part that party politics plays,” McLafferty said. “Being there and experiencing it in real life helped me to better understand the intricacies of how things get done and how our government works.”
Fellows will spend the next month developing projects to promote the role of physician assistants in their own communities. McLafferty said the fellowship experience has already given him a better understanding of how he can make a positive impact on the profession.
“I feel more empowered to affect change in the future after just being in Washington, D.C., and getting to talk about things that I’m passionate about to an audience that has the power to do something about it,” he said.