I was not an advocate for family medicine before this conference. Now I see that I could open up a dialogue with elected officials about the issues that affect the health of my patients. I realized that as a family physician armed with an altruistic and broad-minded advocacy agenda, I am respected and listened to in the office of elected officials. I realize that all I really need to know about advocacy I can learn from a module and a 1-day crash course, and the rest is relating the personal stories of my patients in ways that give meaning to the issues addressed.
Nicholas Cohen, MDCase Western Reserve University School of Medicine
The Family Medicine Congressional Conference changed my view of the process of advocacy. Even though my brain has been programmed to think ‘evidence-based’ and look for the systematic reviews and statistics, that plays a very small role in advocacy. Legislators want to hear stories about how issues affect their constituents and as a family doctor, I am great at telling my patients’ stories. They also want to know how many constituents support or oppose certain legislation. That completely throws my “choose your battles” strategy out the window. I recognize now that every email sent or contact made with their office is a vote for the issue.
Christina Cavanaugh, MDFlorida State University
It was such an honor to attend and to have received a scholarship to the 2013 Family Medicine Congressional Conference (FMCC). FMCC was overall a fantastic experience, and I would certainly recommend it to other family physicians. Dr Matt Burke and I run an annual health policy workshop for DC area faculty, residents, and medical students. I was able to incorporate concepts I learned at FMCC into our workshop. During FMCC, I was fortunate to be on Hill visits with two residents from my program, my program director, the chair of my department, and a private physician who works in my organization. It was a great experience interacting with each of them. It was also helpful to see how others conducted Hill visits.
Winston Liaw, MD, MPHVirginia Commonwealth University
As a result of the brief, two day meeting, I have developed basic advocacy skills as well as a deeper understanding of key issues that impact medical education. The first day of the FMCC is packed with important information that is presented in an easy to understand and share format that was invaluable during Hill visits. Having the opportunity to be part of a visit without feeling solely responsible for its success or failure provided me with the confidence to speak up about important issues. Since returning from the Family Medicine Congressional Conference, I’ve emailed my legislators several times about various issues as it has been easy to maintain a conversation with the individuals whom I met in each office during the FMCC.
Gretchen Dickson, MD, MBAUniversity of Kansas, Wichita
The FMCC Scholarship provided opportunity to enhance advocacy skills, become more educated in current primary care policy and to network with colleagues.The process of advocacy, particularly federal advocacy, can seem daunting.However, joining colleagues from our state delegation for structured visits is both demystifying and empowering; such visits validate one’s role as a content expert in primary care, giving voice to our “on the ground” reality and how it is affected by policy making. Additionally, I have been approved to run a policy elective at our department and the skills and first-hand knowledge of actually advocating gives me great ability to appreciate what a deliverable could look like in a structured elective experience; this would require residents to translate their research into either a white paper or legislative ask (at the local, state or federal level) and the first hand knowledge of FMCC will directly inform how I advise mentees in this process.
Matthew Burke, MDFranklin Square Medical Center, Baltimore, MD
I really enjoyed my time at the Family Medicine Congressional Conference and learned a lot both about specific issues and the political process. I think the first day of the Family Medicine Congressional Conference does an excellent job of emphasizing that you need to do this in the Capitol Hill visits. During my day lobbying on Capitol Hill, I was able to meet with both Idaho Senators personally and an aide for my Idaho Congressman. I also tagged along with a colleague as he talked to aides of the two Utah Senators. My lobbying seemed to be most effective when I followed four rules: 1) Keep it simple, don’t focus on too many issues, 2) Make everything local and personal, 3)Don’t assume anything about the Congressman you are visiting, and 4) Ask for support for specific bills.