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ACP Interns Tackle Health Policy Issues in Nation's Capital
Program aims to plant the seeds of advocacy early in physicians' careers
The American College of Physicians gives a resident and a medical student a dose of health policy advocacy, Washington, D.C.-style, each year in a month-long internship -- a chance to learn the legislative ropes and be introduced to life inside the Beltway.
The latest interns -- Dr. Mary Huerter, an internal medicine resident at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and Graeme Williams, a medical student at Temple University in Philadelphia -- "were exceptionally busy," said Hilary Daniel, program coordinator for the internship. "They were only actually in the office for a full day twice. All the other times they were out on the Hill, at an event, at a briefing, or at a congressional hearing."
"The purpose of the program is to get medical students and residents interested in health policy and advocacy and hopefully grow physicians who will be active in the ACP, and health policy and advocacy throughout their careers," Daniel said. "In addition to trekking through meetings and briefings, the interns also had to research and prepare background materials on health policy issues."
Huerter, who researched health policy issues around vaccine exemption, said the internship "changed the trajectory of my career."
She said she was intimidated at first, because her intensive medical training hadn't included policy training. But as she did her research and attended briefings about a range of issues, from obesity to drug costs, she came to view policy advocacy as part of her professional future.
Williams felt similarly.
"One of the most valuable experiences I had was researching and writing an informational memo for the Health and Public Policy Committee," Williams said. The committee needed to update a seven-year-old paper on the use of medical marijuana, and Williams was charged with researching the original position as well as recent research and information.
Attending a Senate Finance Committee meeting about the impact of advanced comorbidities on Medicare costs also stands out among Williams's Washington experiences, saying he was interested to hear the perspectives of leadership from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and MedPAC, as well as the questions from senators.
"What was frustrating, though, was to see how easy it is for the clinical doctor-patient relationship to be lost in these discussions," Williams said.
Huerter said she believes this is a critical time for physicians to become active in policy development.
"People want doctor's voices, they want to know what physicians think, how we define quality care, and how policy changes affect us and our patients," she said.
In addition to attending meetings and researching health policies, Huerter and Williams also developed a presentation for medical students who attended ACP's Leadership Day events, when members from across the country come to Washington for briefings and meetings with legislators. Their presentation highlighted the importance of advocacy for physicians.
Those interested in an internship next spring can begin submitting materials -- including a CV, letters of reference, a personal essay, and a health policy essay -- in August.
Details on the health policy internship are available on the ACP website.