Mentor and Mentee Perspectives on ADA Lobby Day

Author: Alicia D.D. Spoor, Au.D., Lindsey Yarde, B.S., Chase Smith, B.A.

On Thursday November 12, 2015 ADA convention attendees swarmed Capitol Hill to lobby for The Audiology Patient Choice Act of 2015, HR 2519. However, it wasn’t just audiologists who were doing the lobbying; student attendees were also afforded this wonderful opportunity to see how the federal government works. Thanks to the ADA Mentoring committee, student attendees were paired with fellow ADA members—and after a quick ‘meet and greet’ on Wednesday evening, the mentor/mentee pairs took to Capitol Hill with the other 110 participants.

Since being paired with an ADA mentor as a graduate student, during my third-year education program, I have enthusiastically participated as a mentor in the program for four years. This year, I (Dr. Alicia Spoor) was paired with two wonderful third-year students: Ms. Lindsey Yarde from the University of Illinois and Mr. Chase Smith from Northwestern University. Below is a narrative of our experiences, both from the mentor and the mentee perspective.
Alicia D.D. Spoor, Au.D.
Private Practice Owner
Severn, Maryland

From my perspective, ADA headquarters does a great job at ensuring mentors and mentees have a chance to connect wirelessly, prior to convention. Email exchanges occurred between myself, Ms. Yarde, and Mr. Smith, in addition to some voicemails, prior to the week of convention. I took this opportunity to obtain information from both mentees about their experiences lobbying at the state and national level, provide some additional information about the Capitol Hill experience, and to set some expectations for the Lobbying Day. A few questions posed to Ms. Yarde and Mr. Smith via email included:
  • What are you anticipating from this lobbying day experience?  Do you have any thoughts about what to expect?  Who might you be meeting with during the scheduled meetings?
  • Why did you decide to pursue a degree in Audiology?
  • Why should this piece of legislation be passed? 
  • What would the legislation cost, if passed and signed into law?
The hotel lobby bar provided a good educational opportunity on Wednesday evening for further conversation. Ms. Yarde and Mr. Smith (and a few others who were up for another drink on my credit card) may have thought it was more of a lecture with a test at the end. However, the test was actually the entire day on Thursday.

In the morning, ADA members from South Carolina and New York allowed the three of us to join in their legislative meeting. Ms. Yarde and Mr. Smith were able to view the process of meeting with legislative aides and healthcare aides during these morning meetings. (A big “Thank you!” to these states’ ADA constituents who allowed us to come to all of their meetings.) After one or two meetings, the mentees were informed that the afternoon sessions, with Representative Ruppersberger’s office and Senator Mikulski’s office, would be their ‘lead’ meeting. Ms. Yarde and Mr. Smith actively practiced their presentations during lunch, while walking from the House to the Senate office buildings, and also gave their spiel to other Maryland ADA constituents who were also lobbying. After listening to these young, soon-to-be Doctors of Audiology, I realized that I could not have done better myself!

After the meetings were completed, we frantically rushed back to the hotel for the ADA Membership meeting. During the entire ADA convention, members were talking about their experiences on Capitol Hill and Ms. Yarde and Mr. Smith were able to share their experiences, as well. At some point over the weekend, Mr. Smith sarcastically thanked me for the opportunity to lobby and lead a session: ‘Thanks to you, I can’t stop thinking about how I can be more involved legislatively and lobby even more.’ The experienced mentees were encouraged to get involved both at the state (with licensure issues) and national levels (HR 2519 and the Senate companion bill).

Their experiences follow. The profession is in capable hands!    

Lindsey Yarde, B.S.
3rd Year Doctor of Audiology Student
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

As a student attendee at the recent ADA conference in Washington D. C., I had the unique opportunity to participate in Lobby Day. On Thursday, November 12th, a determined group of 130 audiologists and students took on Capitol Hill to advocate for the Audiology Patient Choice Act, H.R. 2519.

Prior to the conference, all student scholarship recipients received a mentor. Chase Smith, the current Student Academy of Doctors of Audiology President, and I were assigned to Dr. Alicia Spoor, owner of Designer Audiology. Dr. Spoor’s passion for audiology and H.R. 2519 became apparent to us weeks before the conference even began. Shortly after our initial introductions via e-mail correspondence, Dr. Spoor encouraged Chase and me to begin thinking about Lobby Day. She posed some questions pertaining to the legislation that I was not prepared to answer.

As a student, at the University of Illinois, and an active member of my Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) chapter, I have been involved in discussions regarding H.R. 2519 and have also sent letters to our state representatives. However, Lobby Day made me reexamine what I thought I knew about the legislation. Due to these nervous feelings, I re-read documents, watched a webinar that had been e-mailed out to ADA members and also confided in my current clinical supervisor, Dr. Susan Lopez. I was starting to get a better grasp on the legislation and was feeling ready to take on Lobbying Day.

The first night in Washington D.C. we had a “meet and greet” with the other student attendees and our mentors. After some brief “get to know each other” questions, Dr. Spoor asked Chase and me if we were ready for Lobby Day. I thought so, but truly I had no clue what I was in for. Dr. Spoor broke down the legislation for us into three parts. That night I spent my time reciting the three parts out loud to myself so I would be ready to contribute to my group on Capitol Hill!

Bright and early, on Thursday at 7:00 a.m., Lobby Day began with a breakfast briefing. We all gathered in our business attire with our red, ADA scarves and ties. Dr. Kim Cavitt led us through the morning and reminded us why H.R. 2519 is so important. Going into this day I wasn’t totally sure what role I would play as a student attendee, but Dr. Spoor immediately advised that I would play an integral part in our meetings throughout the day. Our day consisted of six legislative sessions with legislative offices in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Our morning sessions were spent with four audiologists from South Carolina, Dr. Kristin Davis, Dr. Alexandra Tarvin, Dr. Mary Anne Larkin, and Dr. Casey Adkins. Our afternoon sessions were spent with Dr. Briana Bruno Holtan and Dr. Melissa Segev from Maryland (thank you all for being so great with Chase and me).

Luckily, throughout the morning sessions, I was able to watch the South Carolina audiologists take the lead during the meetings with their U.S. Representatives’ offices. We met with assigned legislative assistants (LA) from each office. Most of these LAs seemed to be around my age, mid 20s or so, which helped my nerves. However, these ‘assistants’ are vital in the process and we had to convince them to believe in H.R. 2519 just as much as we do. They are the ears for the Representatives, so it was crucial to get them to ‘back the act’!

During our morning break, Dr. Spoor gave me my assignment for the day. I would be talking to Mr. Walter Gonzales, Legislative Director for Representative Dutch Ruppersberger from Maryland. So, it was my job to convince Mr. Gonzales that H.R. 2519 is important and worthy of Representative Ruppersberger’s co-sponsorship. At 1:30 p.m., it was my time to shine in the House, with three audiologists and Chase watching it all happen!

There we were at Representative Ruppersberger’s door. Mr. Gonzales welcomed us in and I took it from there. I explained to Mr. Gonzales who we were and why we were there. I then gave him further clarification on H.R. 2519 and why we thought Representative Ruppersberger should support our legislation. For those who may not completely understand H.R. 2519, as I said before, there are three parts to this legislation.
  1. H.R. 2519 will allow Medicare patients to have direct access to our services rather than needing a physician’s order.
  2. H.R. 2519 will provide audiologists with the reimbursement from Medicare for the services that Medicare covers that we are trained to provide within our scope of practice.
  3. H.R. 2519 will classify audiologists as Limited License Physicians, which will give us the same status as chiropractors, podiatrists, and optometrists, who are also non-M.D. physicians.
After my spiel to Mr. Gonzales he felt strongly that Representative Ruppersberger would be interested and supportive of the legislation. The major take-away from my experience talking to Mr. Gonzales, along with his encouraging words toward H.R. 2519, came from what he said following the meeting. He made it clear to Chase and me, that as students, it was important that we were there supporting our profession and seeing first-hand how much work goes into getting a bill passed through Congress. He encouraged us to continue to stay involved with advocating for our profession for years to come. Mr. Gonzales stated that, as a Legislative Director, he is not aware of what is going on in a profession and how he can help, unless someone brings it to his attention. Because of Mr. Gonzales, and his words of wisdom, I will forever be an advocate for audiology.

At the end of the day, my positive connection with Mr. Gonzales was just one of many that occurred on the Hill, while lobbying for the Audiology Patient Choice Act. Passing a bill through Congress is not an easy process, but I am proud to say that I played a role in advocating for our profession. I will be forever grateful for this experience and I encourage all audiologists and students to advocate at their local, state, and national levels. It feels good to make a difference in something that you believe in.

I owe a great deal of my gratitude to Dr. Alicia Spoor for all of her encouragement and advice that went into Lobby Day for Chase and me. Also, thank you to ADA for allowing students to participate in advocating for our profession. Thank you for valuing the students’ perspective. Last, but not least, thank you to Starkey Hearing Technologies for making all of this possible through your continued willingness to support students and provide student scholarships.    

Chase Smith, B.A.
Graduate Student in Audiology
Northwestern University, ‘16
Audiology Extern at Ohio ENT & Allergy Physicians
President – Academy of Doctors of Audiology Virtual Student Chapter

In a world of super PACs and Olivia Pope, the political process may seem outside the realm of possibility for the average American, let alone a lowly Doctor of Audiology student from Oregon. Yet there I was, walking through the same halls as senators and presidential hopefuls in support of H.R. 2519, the Audiology Patient Choice Act. On that first day of the ADA Convention in Washington D.C., I, along with dozens of students and audiologists, descended on Congressional offices, holding meetings with legislative staffers from morning until evening. With no prior political experience, I was not expecting much from these meetings, but the events of Lobby Day 2015 have made me more hopeful than ever for the future of audiology.

As a relatively small profession, I expected the Congressional staffers in our meetings to be dismissive of our cause. After all these are the same people taking meetings with billion dollar corporations and high-powered attorneys. Yet, I could feel palpable change taking place in these offices. We had the attention of everyone we spoke with, and what we had to say made sense to them. They asked pertinent questions and were receptive to the proposals outlined in our bill. Most meetings were less than twenty minutes in length--but in that time, we were able to substantially increase our visibility on Capitol Hill. As it turns out, there are people in Washington D.C. who will listen!

It is so easy to become discouraged with the state of affairs in today’s educational, professional, and healthcare arenas. But this is an amazing time for our growing profession and a tremendous opportunity to make meaningful, lasting change. As audiologists or future audiologists, we must be vocal about our needs and have a hands-on approach in shaping our future. It is no longer good enough to just be the best audiologist, now is the time to help others be their best as well. As ADA members, we have tremendous educational, networking, and lobbying resources at our disposal as well as a group of some of the best audiologists in the nation. Just as my mentor, Dr. Spoor, challenged me to go above and beyond in these meetings, I challenge you to go above and beyond as well. Send your representatives a letter of support for H.R. 2519 through Congressional Connect on the ADA website! Gather together a group of colleagues and lobby in your state capitol! As Mahatma Ghandi so famously stated: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Nobody is better suited to fight for the betterment of our profession and our patients than you!    
ADA 2015 Awards Recognize Outstanding Audiologists
Several outstanding audiologists were recognized for their significant contributions to the profession of audiology, during the 2015 ADA Convention.

ADA presented Jiovanne Hughart, Au.D., with the Leo Doerfler Award to commemorate the outstanding clinical services that she has provided in her community throughout her career.

“Dr. Hughart is a most deserving recipient who epitomizes Dr. Doerfler’s spirit. Since 1984 her private audiology practices have featured differential diagnosis and treatment of hearing, balance and tinnitus disorders and included vestibular therapy as well as hearing aid fitting and dispensing. She is a consummate service provider, a passionate educator, an ardent student and a selfless volunteer.”

ADA presented Carolyn Smaka, Au.D., the Joel Wernick Award, which recognizes an outstanding educational contribution within the profession of audiology or the field of hearing science.

“Dr. Smaka brings unrivaled passion and enthusiasm to her role as Editor-in-Chief of Audiology Online, where she has served for the past seven years. Providing exemplary educational opportunities for audiologists has become her personal mission and she continually seeks to develop topics and educational opportunities that will benefit the profession of audiology as a whole. Through her efforts and dedication, through her innovation and collaboration, she has shaped continuing education in audiology.”

ADA a presented Eric Hagberg, Au.D., with the David P. Goldstein Outstanding Audiologist Award, which recognizes an individual for promoting audiology’s transformation to a doctoral degree with the Au.D. as its distinctive designator. 

“As a member of the board of directors of the Audiology Foundation of America, Dr. Hagberg worked tirelessly to help audiology transition to a doctoring profession. He received his Doctor of Audiology degree from A.T. Still University in 2000 and has consistently helped students recognize the importance of achieving the Au.D. movement through student mentoring and speaking routinely at white coat ceremonies over the years. He is one of the founders of the 18x18 movement, which if achieved will complete audiology’s transformation to a doctoring profession as recognized by Medicare, and he has worked non-stop since 18x18s inception to ensure that the Audiology Patient Choice Act becomes law.”

ADA presented Alicia Spoor, Au.D. with the inaugural Craig W. Johnson Audiology Advocate Award, which was established to honor the memory and accomplishments of Craig W. Johnson and to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to the profession of audiology through federal and/or state advocacy.

“Dr. Spoor has carried forward Dr. Johnson’s great legacy and currently volunteers her time to advocate on regulatory and legislative issues as the Legislative Chair for the Maryland Academy of Audiology. She is the former advocacy committee chair for the Academy of Doctors of Audiology and currently serves as the Chair of the Audiology Quality Consortium, which comprises representatives from 10 national audiology organizations that are purposed to monitor PQRS and respond to rule and measure changes, collaborate on the development of audiology quality measures, and educate audiologists regarding audiology quality measures and PQRS reporting requirements.”

ADA presented Drs. Jason Aird, Amyn Amlani, Barry Freeman and Brian Taylor with the Exemplary Service Award to recognize above and beyond volunteer service to advance ADA’s mission.

“This working group has worked behind the scenes to conduct environmental scans, gather research and measure trends within audiology as well as the entire hearing industry for the purpose of delivering resources that will help advance the interests of ADA members.

For the past two years, these individuals have sacrificed their time and talents towards advancing ADA’s mission to advance best business and clinical practices, by exploring opportunities for innovation. Because of the contributions of this working group, ADA has been better positioned to monitor the disruptive trends impacting audiology today and better poised to help audiologists take full advantage of them.”