"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead
It is easy for one to think that being a physician has nothing to do with advocacy or public policy. However, laws and regulations impact the way physicians practice medicine in the Commonwealth. PAMED represented its 19,000 members by attending the 2018 National Advocacy Conference (NAC) hosted by the American Medical Association (AMA) in February.
The AMA said that attendees noted how advocacy has become an extension of their practices. It also allowed them to have a larger impact on the health of their communities and the nation as a whole. In Pa., that idea resonates with PAMED Board of Trustees Resident Trustee Tani Malhotra, MD, who witnessed a NAC speaker make the analogy that “if medicine is our profession, then politics is our business.” For Dr. Malhotra, that translates to meeting with lawmakers and helping them to understand the impact of legislation on a physician’s ability to deliver care. She says that this is every physician's responsibility.
If advocacy is every physician’s responsibility, below is a list of the of the top 3 reasons to get involved in advocacy:
1. Meeting with your members of Congress is the most powerful way to bring about change. Start by contacting the legislator’s scheduler and request a meeting with the lawmaker and their health legislative assistant. Dr. Malhotra says, “Physicians are the experts in our fields and our representatives appreciate our evidence-based input on bills they are considering. Meeting with them in D.C., Harrisburg, or in their local offices builds bridges. This allows physicians to regain control of their health care practices and influence policy in a meaningful way.”
2. Advocacy brings together the most passionate, influential members of the health care community. While at the NAC, PAMED leaders met with Senate staff for both Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) to discuss topics like the opioid abuse crisis and how it is affecting Pennsylvania. On the U.S. House side, physicians met with Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA-13th District), as well as senior staff from several other Pennsylvania Congressional districts. For 170 years, PAMED has had a long-standing history of deliberately practicing advocacy. PAMED leads with purpose by meeting with legislative stakeholders and policymakers, by positioning physicians as the ultimate champions of safety, and by advocating for policies and programs that promote patient-centered, physician-led team-based care.
3. Advocates wage hope and inspire change. Physicians want to help their patients be the best version of themselves. Dr. Malhotra says, “Just as we got into medicine to help people, our representatives got into politics for similar reasons. We must collaborate with them to develop policies that help the practice of medicine and the health of our patients.”
To learn more about how to be an effective physician advocate, check out PAMED’s Physician Advocacy Basics CME course at www.pamedsoc.org/AdvocacyBasics.
Support Grassroots Physician Advocacy Through PAMPAC
Consider contributing to the Pennsylvania Medical Political Action Committee (PAMPAC), the muscle of PAMED. Member contributions are used to support the election and retention of pro-medicine candidates. PAMPAC also campaigns against vulnerable incumbent legislators who consistently vote against the interests of patients and physicians.