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Improving Your Advocacy Skills: Keep an Open Dialog with Lawmakers


By Kristen Sandel, MD

Note: Over the coming weeks, PAMED members will share why they have a passion for advocacy. Today’s profile is on Kristen Sandel, MD, an emergency medicine physician from Reading Hospital and the early career physician representative on PAMED’s Board of Trustees.

Dr. Sandel became involved with PAMED Advocacy over the scope-of-practice issue, “one of the biggest” for physicians nationwide.

“More and more members of the health care team are gaining experience and are attempting to expand their practice, sometimes beyond the scope in which they were trained,” Dr. Sandel said. “One of the major issues I see going forward is ensuring that the physician is considered the leader of the health care team, and while every member of the health care team is important, the physician really should be driving the care of the patient.”

Dr. Sandel has “a lot of respect for legislators in Pennsylvania. They’ve been very interested in meeting with physicians, which is a great step forward. They have a lot of respect for us and take our comments seriously. Many times, they will follow up with an e-mail.”

The most effective strategies involve “keeping an open dialog. It’s not being myopic, but ensuring that we’re looking at issues from many different sides, which is not adversarial, but more collegial.”

Their constituents are also your patients, and even when lawmakers hear from those same people, they might hear about the issue from a different, more personal perspective.

“Building relationships is key,” Dr. Sandel said. “Whether it’s personal meetings at various events, or more professional, through sending letters and e-mails. Keep that dialog open all year, so when an issue comes up that you or your patients are passionate about, you have that person who’s ready to lend an ear.”

Events such as PAMED legislative breakfasts foster discussions about key issues. Mentors can bring younger physicians to events and introduce them to key PAMED staff.

“Having someone who’s been through the trials and tribulations of health care advocacy and can guide you in the right direction is extremely helpful,” Dr. Sandel said. “Many of the more experienced physicians are more than willing to establish relationships with younger physicians and be their mentors.”

This post originally appeared in the Pennsylvania Physician Magazine. It is republished with permission.

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