“This situation is far from ideal—I feel like I should DO SOMETHING!”
To my ECP colleagues: How often do you either find yourself feeling or saying this or hear your friends and colleagues say it? Is it said about COVID-19, vaccine education efforts, protecting the Affordable Care Act, climate change, physician mental health, or other topics in need of attention and support?
Welcome to advocacy.
In large part because of the leadership and education brought to me by ACP and my state chapter, being engaged in advocacy has become a vitally important aspect of my own professional and personal identity. I can trace the origins of this call to participate to Spring 2017 when the ACA and coverage for preexisting conditions were under political attack. My identities as a trained physician and mother of a former preemie with preexisting conditions quickly merged to fuel my desire—my need—to speak up and do something.
The call or pull to “do something” is a theme I frequently hear repeated from other physicians who have been drawn to advocacy efforts. In discussing with friends and colleagues around the country, even when the hours are short and the list of competing obligations is long, our advocacy work often feels like the most hands-on work we do with tangible short- and long-term benefits. Amidst the exhaustion and constrained bandwidth of pandemic life, advocacy frequently lights the fire.
Thankfully, ACP at the national and state levels has a vibrant track record of promoting physician-led advocacy, including hosting the Advocates for Internal Medicine Network. The resources available through ACP continue to expand and complement such events as the annual ACP Leadership Day in Washington, DC. One of the newest efforts is an advocacy toolkit being created by passionate and dedicated members of the Council of Student Members, the Council of Resident/Fellow Members, and the CECP. The toolkit will be disseminated to chapters and will include sections on specific avenues for engaging in advocacy, including audio-visual, print, and social media.
Finally, it is not sufficient to only encourage or teach physician advocacy actions. We also need to recognize, legitimize, and honor these actions as stakeholders and mentors in medicine when, for example, reviewing CVs, considering promotion eligibility, and nominating for awards. This is especially important for women, underrepresented minorities, and other disenfranchised members of the health professions who already pay the “mommy tax” and “minority tax” working their unfair share of unpaid and unrewarded hours.
I hope you will see ACP as your home base for physician-led advocacy, and I look forward to connecting in these important endeavors through our community of ECP members.
Avital O’Glasser, MD, FACP, FHM