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Advocacy Update: ACP Health Policy Internship Experience

As medical students, residents, fellows, and practicing physicians, we spend our time learning medicine from textbooks, researching new treatments at the bench, and practicing at the bedside where we treat and counsel patients. For many of us, the political process occurring in Washington, DC, is at best a secondary thought—a place we feel out of our comfort zone, away from our habitat.

As an MD/PhD student, I definitely felt more at home at the bedside and bench side than on the Hill. For that reason, I feel fortunate to have had a chance to participate in a month-long health policy internship at ACP’s DC Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Office in May 2013. This unique opportunity allowed me to learn about the legislative process and develop my advocacy skills. Attending congressional hearings, coalition meetings, and briefings on new health care policies from stakeholder private and governmental agencies allowed me to understand current issues in health care policy. Accompanying ACP DC staff on visits to lobby for policy issue, meeting with members of congress and their aides, and holding a medical student/associate briefing at ACP’s Leadership Day events cultivated my advocacy abilities.

The experience made me realize that as doctors dedicated to ensuring the best possible care for our patients, we all need to understand the political process as it relates to our ability to perform our occupation. In reality, what happens in DC permeates every aspect of medicine: funding for graduate medical education, funding for essential health programs for the poor and uninsured that determine an effective national health policy, funding for the National Institutes of Health and the biomedical research it supports, laws sustaining a broken medical liability system that leads to defensive medicine and unsustainable health care costs, and laws governing a broken payment system that at many levels encourages procedural care over preventive care, further creating an unsustainable health care model. Over the next few years, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented with all its benefits and shortcomings, we as a community have to step up and share our vision for the optimal model of health care!

In summary, I would like to paraphrase two memorable comments given by two congressmen. First, it is our responsibility to advocate on behalf of our patients. Otherwise, we are destined to be helpless and throw objects and curses at the television when we do not agree with laws proposed in Congress. Second, as physicians across all specialties, we need to speak with one unified voice or risk being seen as self-interested guilds. This would hamper our ability to champion health care reforms that would lead to higher-quality, lower-cost care and a return to an environment that promotes a healthier physician–patient interaction with less bureaucracy and fewer defensive practices.

Eugene Shenderov, MD, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


Apply for the 2014 ACP Health Policy Internship Program

ACP is accepting applications for the College's Health Policy Internship for Resident/Fellow and Medical Student Members. This Internship represents a unique opportunity for one Resident/Fellow Member and one Medical Student Member to develop legislative knowledge and advocacy skills by working directly with the College’s Washington, DC, staff and participating in ACP’s annual Leadership Day. The internship will last for 4 weeks starting April 28, 2014. The deadline for applications is October 22, 2013. Learn more.

Back to August 2013 Issue of IMpact

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