Leadership Day participants meet with legislators on issues of concern
June 7, 2019 (ACP) – Nearly 400 medical students and practicing physicians from the American College of Physicians converged on the nation's capital in mid-May, heading to Capitol Hill with an urgent message: Quality health care in the country must be protected.
The event was a key part of ACP's annual Leadership Day. Participants are briefed on the College's top legislative priorities and then meet with legislators and congressional staff members to advocate for the interests of doctors and their patients.
“The College is well-known as both a non-partisan source of evidence-based information as well as ‘the conscience of medicine,’” said Dr. Douglas DeLong, who chairs the ACP Board of Regents. “We make it clear that we are not a guild and that we believe in ‘putting patients first.’ This always resonates well and comes across as genuine.”
This year, Leadership Day participants took part in 415 meetings on Capitol Hill, many with congressional staffers and 96 sessions with members of Congress. All told, 377 people – representing 48 states and the District of Columbia and including 75 medical students, 102 residents or fellows, 15 members of the ACP Board of Regents and 42 members of the ACP Board of Governors – took part.
They called upon Congress to support a range of issues, including:
- Addressing the high cost of prescription drugs
- Combating the epidemic of firearm-related injuries and deaths
- Funding federal programs that support primary care and ensure an adequate physician workforce
- Funding medical and health services research
- Improving Medicare's physician payment system
- Expanding coverage and stabilizing the insurance market
- Reducing unnecessary administrative burdens on physicians and patients
- Supporting the health of women and families
- Supporting medical education and debt relief for primary care physicians and other specialties facing shortages
As it turned out, the next day the House of Representatives passed a package of health care bills that align with ACP's priorities of stabilizing the health insurance market and lowering prescription drug costs.
“Leadership Day can be exhausting, but it is at least as rewarding as and perhaps even more important than the precious time we spend with our patients in the exam room every day,” DeLong said. “You can and should do this for the profession, our society and your individual patients.”
For his part, DeLong met with legislative aides to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Reps. Paul Tonko and Jerry Nadler. He also met with his own congressman, the newly elected Antonio Delgado, a Democrat who had narrowly defeated an incumbent Republican in the 2018 mid-term elections.
“We did not have to dance around certain issues,” DeLong said. “We are in alignment over essentially all priorities.”
The physician and the congressman didn't just talk medicine, however. They also bonded over baseball.
“Hearing that I hail from Cooperstown, he immediately went into his other room and returned with a Cooperstown Bat Company Louisville Slugger bat,” DeLong said.
In addition to the advocacy work done during the Leadership Day event, ACP honored an important voice in the nation's medical community.
The College presented the Joseph F. Boyle Award for Distinguished Public Service to Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. surgeon general and president and co-founder of Doctors for America. Dr. Murthy was present to accept the award, which honors a current or former government official or physician who has provided outstanding public service in improving the delivery of health care.
DeLong also expressed thanks to ACP's veteran staffers who support the College's advocacy efforts.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the dedication and skill of the wonderful women and men that ‘do advocacy’ at ACP,” he said. “I'm such a huge fan of our team that works day in and day out to foster our mission and goals.”
A summary of key priorities for Leadership Day 2019 is available on the ACP website.