Occupational therapy student travels to AOTA Hill Day to advocate for the importance of diversity

Tara Saideman standing in front of the Capitol

Story by Emmy Steele

Excited to promote the importance of diversity, a topic of importance within the Department of Occupational Therapy among both faculty and students, Tara Saideman, second-year occupational therapy student traveled to Washington, D.C. in September to participate in Hill Day.

Knowing that one school in the state of Colorado alone cannot solve the issue at the national level, Saideman paved the way to make a difference here at Colorado State University. Sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Association, Hill Day is an opportunity for occupational therapists and occupational therapy students to discuss current legislation related to the occupational therapy profession.

Advocating for the profession

Specifically, Saideman met with legislative aids, assistants and correspondents to Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet and Colorado Representative Joe Neguse. She, as well as two others from Colorado, spoke with these individuals about three bills. One bill regarding the importance of diversity was the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act, which would create legislation to provide grants to accredited education programs to help support scholarships, recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented groups. This support would in turn help increase diversity in the allied health professions by providing funding and scholarship opportunities.

Although Saideman said she was nervous to talk to her state representatives, she was excited to advocate for the profession by participating in such a meaningful aspect of being an activist for occupational therapy through voicing opinions and concerns related to why people should care about diversity. By participating in AOTA Hill Day, Saideman’s experience has provided her with more awareness of the different legislation affecting occupational therapy as well as different aspects of the profession.

Furthermore, this experience has helped Saideman develop a unique mindfulness that she will be able to carry throughout her career as a future occupational therapist. And in the end, advocating does pay off! The Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act passed the House of Representatives unanimously on the evening of Oct. 28, 2019.

Making a difference

Moving forward, Saideman looks forward to taking what she advocated for and learned at Hill Day and apply it to her work as a member of the Inclusive Excellence Committee at CSU. Her passion for diversity will only be further supported with the passing of this bill.

However, for those that did not attend AOTA Hill Day Saideman added this advice, “Call your legislator and tell them you want to talk to them. Or make an appointment to go in person. It is their job to listen to you.” As Saideman experienced, advocacy does make a difference.

The Department of Occupational Therapy is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.