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RMU Students Advocate for Their Healthcare Professions at the Utah State Capitol

In January, Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMU) students from the Doctor of Optometry and Master of Physician Assistant Studies programs seized an opportunity to meet with legislators at the Utah State Capitol and passionately advocate for their future patients and professions.

Optometry Day on the Hill


RMU Doctor of Optometry Dean, faculty and students, along with President Martin and VP Stephen Whyte.

On January 26, 52 students and 14 faculty members from RMU’s College of Optometry attended a luncheon with legislators at the Capitol. The event’s purpose was to support expanding the scope of practice for Utah optometrists in a Senate Bill (SB0210), which includes laser procedures. Students conversed with Utah legislators to advocate for the profession of optometry and discuss policy.

Rep. Stephen L. Whyte, R-Mapleton, and Sen. Michael S. Kennedy, R-Alpine and Chair of the Health & Human Services Committee, led tours of RMU optometry students through the Senate Chamber, the State Supreme Supreme Court Room, and the House of Representatives. They discussed procedures for passing a law and the separation of powers within the Constitution. 


Senator Kennedy led Optometry students on an informative tour of the Capitol building.

After their time at the Capitol, many students expressed a strong interest in becoming more involved in advocating for their profession.

SB0210 is a bill to allow Utah optometrists to perform specific laser treatments for which they have been trained. RMU Optometry students, who are trained to perform these procedures, advocated for the right to perform them in their clinical practice. Optometrists in the United States, including in Colorado and Wyoming, have safely performed over 200,000 procedures, giving greater access to patients.

Physician Assistant (PA) Day on the Hill


RMU PA faculty and students, along with President Martin.

On January 31, RMU Master of Physician Assistant (MPAS) students, donned in their whitecoats, visited the Utah Capitol for Physician Assistant Day on the Hill. Four faculty and 47 students from the program attended the event. They heard from speakers, including RMU faculty member and President of the Utah Academy of Physician Assistants Alan Bybee, Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-SLC, and Rep. Ken Ivory, R-Midvale. Rep. Ivory talked about how PAs are the future of healthcare and that Utah legislators want to allow them to practice to the full scope of their abilities. Students were also given a tour of the Capitol. 

PAs and future PAs were also on site to support SB24, introduced by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo. SB24 is the equivalent of a “harmonization” bill, updating the current state code and adding “physician assistant” to several places in the code. This would ensure all pertinent laws in the state are up-to-date with the tremendous changes brought about by Utah SB27 and SB28, which passed in 2021 and brought the PA practice into the 21st century. 

SB27 has become a model for the nation in optimizing the Physician-PA team practice of medicine, allowing PAs to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and experience.

SB28 was also groundbreaking in recognizing PAs as mental healthcare providers. Under SB28, PAs in Utah who have undergone the proper psychiatric training could provide psychotherapeutic services (counseling) in addition to being able to prescribe psychotherapeutic medications.

The attendance and advocacy of RMU students and faculty, along with those of the three other PA schools in Utah, were an important influence in the passage of SB24.


These Day on the Hill experiences aligned with the goal of RMU to train not only future clinicians and healthcare professionals but also passionate individuals who advocate for their patients and their professions.