By Stephanie Yamkovenko
It was just one day after Congress finally agreed on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff that the 113th Congress convened and the new members of the House and Senate participated in swearing-in activities. Amid the political tumult, AOTA members and staff represented occupational therapy at a variety of congressional events throughout the day.
One AOTA member, Aimee Sidhu, MA, OTR/L, was able to participate in the activities by winning the American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee (AOTPAC) contest. Members who contributed at least $365 to AOTPAC were entered into a drawing to win a trip to D.C. to attend the Congressional Swearing In Activities. Sidhu flew from Washington state, and on Thursday, January 3, she attended events from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sidhu and AOTA Federal Affairs staff participated in receptions held in both the House and Senate buildings, the official swearing-in in the Capitol, and an evening reception to recognize newly elected Members of Congress.
“The most memorable moment was hearing and then meeting Vice President Joe Biden,” says Sidhu. “This was an unexpected opportunity that arose while attending a reception for Senator Casey from Pennsylvania. Upon meeting Biden, I was able to tell him that I am an occupational therapist in Washington state. I was impressed with his personable nature and his understanding of challenges for older adults.”
Throughout the day, Sidhu says she was able to talk briefly about occupational therapy with many of the legislators she met. “I had the opportunity to spend more time specifically with both Senator Patty Murray at a breakfast, and the new representative from my district, Denny Heck,” says Sidhu. “Mr. Heck had recently met the new president of Bates Technical College, where I am a full time instructor and academic fieldwork coordinator in the OTA program, and we were able to talk some about issues within Washington state.”
AOTA staff members were impressed with how Sidhu was able to promote the profession during the busy day. “Aimee is a fantastic advocate for the profession, who, as a constituent, was able to make a strong impression on the Washington State delegation,” says Heather Parsons, AOTA’s director of legislative advocacy.
The AOTPAC contest gives AOTA members a unique opportunity to participate in events that are typically attended by congressional legislative staff members, lobbyists, or family members of legislators. “In that way, I stood out as someone AOTPAC staff could promote as a constituent,” says Sidhu. “Most people I met were impressed that AOTPAC would take the opportunity to provide this day, and it was a great starting point for conversation. I was not pushing any specific agenda, other than promoting awareness of the profession.”
Sidhu believes that supporting AOTPAC ensures the ongoing support of occupational therapy’s legislative priorities at a national level, especially in today’s fiscally challenging atmosphere. Learn more about contributing to AOTPAC here.
“The Swearing-In of a new Congress is always an exciting time and represents a new beginning,” says Parsons. “It’s a chance to introduce the field of occupational therapy to the new members of Congress and to reconnect with returning members.”
Stephanie Yamkovenko is AOTA’s staff writer.
See more photos from the Swearing In Activities here.