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Effect Change Through Your Vote

 

Amanda L. Collar
Vice Chair, ACP Council of Student Members

— MEDICAL SCHOOL —
University of New Mexico School of Medicine

— GRADUATING CLASS —
2024
 

 

Ashley Fellers
Member, ACP Council of Student Members

— MEDICAL SCHOOL —
University of South Carolina School of Medicine

— GRADUATING CLASS —
2023
 

Before I started medical school, the right and privilege to vote were not lost on me. My parents instilled in me a strong sense of civic duty by being very vocal about their own political views. When I turned 18, I was thrilled to vote in my first presidential election. Furthermore, there was a young, inspirational presidential candidate who excited me: Barack Obama. Motivated by his vision, I spent hours in the blazing New Mexico sun outside the student union building registering my fellow classmates to vote. The day of the election, I wore my “I Voted” sticker like a badge of honor. Surrounded by joyous friends, I watched enthusiastically the night President Obama won the election in 2008.

Although I was politically engaged at a young age, the reach and power of the government did not become fully apparent to me until I started medical school. As I studied medicine, I realized that so many of my patients' ailments start long before a doctor's visit. Chronic health conditions like diabetes and hypertension are both caused and exacerbated by social determinants of health, such as access to nutritious food, outdoor spaces, where people can afford to live, the careers or jobs they have access to, education, and more. As physicians, we can put a BAND-AID on these chronic issues, but we cannot easily change the public health issues and social determinants of health harming our communities. We can listen, offer empathy, counsel with cultural humility, and provide resources. However, once our patients step out of our office, they go back into the unjust world.

Many of these issues stem from policies made by our elected officials—policies that prioritize profit for insurance and drug companies, segregate housing, tie the income of a neighborhood to the quality of public education received, create a criminal justice system built on racism, deprioritize climate change policies, and so much more. Although these issues may seem isolated, they can all be tied back to health.

These are the problems that we cannot fix from a doctor's office. However, they are issues we can fix from the polls. It is our duty to keep informed; vote; and advocate for ourselves, our patients, and our community. Further, it is important that we allow everyone to have these same rights. Everyone deserves to make their voice heard and the ability to shape public policy. Yet, this right is under attack.

Every American should be able to vote for the elected official, both locally and nationally, who will be making policies on their behalf. We should expand early voting and voting by mail, make it easier for people to register to vote, reinstate the voting rights of those who have been incarcerated, make Election Day a national holiday, give people paid time off to vote, make polling locations accessible in all neighborhoods, and ban voting ID laws. Although this may seem like an extensive laundry list of requests, it serves to highlight the many changes needed to empower marginalized members of our nation. As physicians, we strive to improve the health and well-being of our community, and advocacy is a critical part of that mission.

Therefore, it is imperative that across the country we lobby to stop the attacks on voting rights and lobby our elected officials to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and For the People Act. Your vote can help improve your health and the health of your patients.

Back to the October 2021 issue of ACP IMpact