#FightingforFamilyMedicine

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Kari-Claudia Allen, MD, MPH

The Family Medicine Advocacy Summit 2018 was super dope.

On May 21, I joined family medicine physicians and teachers from all over the nation to converge on the District of Columbia to advocate for issues that affect our patients, families, and friends. The three main topics of discussion at this year’s convention were: improving access to primary care through affordable insurance and expanding rural healthcare, finding solutions to the opioid crisis, and preventing maternal mortality.  

The event kicked off with a welcome from Michael Munger, MD, American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) president, and  Karen Smith, MD, chair of the AAFP Commission on Governmental Advocacy. They gave inspiring remarks and acknowledged student, resident, and new faculty scholarship awardees, such as myself, from organizations like the AAFP and the Society for Teachers of Family Medicine.  They reminded us to keep #FightingforFamilyMedicine and continue telling our stories about the very real people we serve around the nation.

During the first panel, we learned about the newly recommended primary care payment model; discussed the ever-changing climate of American health care and insurance systems and how they will affect the 2020 elections; and heard an overview of the legislative efforts to combat prescription opioid drug addiction and the role the family physician plays in advocating for these changes.

Our Director of Government Relations, Hope Wittenberg,  gave us an insightful presentation on how to advocate during Hill meetings, followed by the media perspective on the Nation’s Capital, brought to us by the Washington Examiner’s very own Kimberly Leonard. (Who was totally awesome, by the way!)

The AAFP then highlighted our own advocacy resources and efforts through the Family Medicine PAC, which has really put Family Medicine docs on the map in DC.  The rest of the afternoon was filled with interesting breakout sessions, followed by a riveting speech by US Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO). He spoke on how family medicine has impacted his life, and his own experience with having to drive his wife 60 miles away to get her to a hospital that delivered babies when she was in labor. He said they almost didn’t make it to the hospital with the 3rd child. Yikes!

A fabulous Day 1 of the Summit was wrapped up with the FamMedPAC and Grassroots reception in one of the luxurious ballrooms of the Washington Court Hotel.

Day 2 was the Big Day! We met with our fellow statesmen and took to Capitol Hill! I had the luxury of spending the day with Drs Saria Saccocio and Richard Boyle of South Carolina’s Upstate and Lowcountry regions, respectively. We had a ball!

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We visited with staffers from the offices of Senator Lindsey Graham, Representative Ralph Norman, Representative Trey Gowdy, Representative Joe Wilson, Representative Jim Clyburn, and Senator Tim Scott. Everyone was lovely and very knowledgeable about the bills for which we were advocating.

Dr Boyle, MD, president of the South Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, emphasized how important it is to train and secure family physicians to take care of the rural parts of our country: 80% of the state of South Carolina is considered rural and by 2030 there is a predicted shortage of over 800 physicians. Dr Saccocio, ambulatory chief medical officer, and department chair of Family Medicine at the Greenville Health System, urged our Congressmen to support opioid legislation that will increase substance use treatment access, expand chronic pain research for alternative treatment options, and improve the State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs throughout the nation to make it more feasible for all physicians to use.

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As a “full-spectrum” family doc (which means I do it all, including maternal and prenatal care), I urged our legislators to support two bills that would lead to the prevention of maternal deaths and a national standardization of the way we investigate maternal deaths. Can you believe that the United States has the highest mortality rates of all industrialized nations?! We owe it to our new moms and their babies to vigorously examine interventions to reverse this trend—like NOW!

It was encouraging to know that most of our representatives were already making great strides to support the legislation for which we were advocating. We’ve come a long way, but there’s so much more ground to cover. Let’s keep this energy up and keep #FightingforFamilyMedicine.

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