Category Archives: Advocacy

Physician, Scientist, Educator…Advocate?


Jeffrey Walden, MD

As both physician and educator working primarily with underserved patients, I have seen time and again how the idealism in caring for patients can fall short of reality when working in our current health systems.

While it may be tempting when confronted with these shortfalls to take the easy path towards cynicism, our patients deserve better. As do our learners—it is never too early to model right behaviors when educating medical learners on various ways to tackle health disparities. And one of those ways is through patient-centered advocacy.

Remember the Stories

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend the 2018 Family Medicine Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC as a recipient of the STFM New Faculty Advocacy Scholarship. The Summit proved a great opportunity to learn more about advocacy in general, as well as the importance of putting patient stories first.

The conference ran for 2 days. The first consisted of a full day of learning about current issues in healthcare, including changes in advanced payment models, updates on health coverage in the media, strategies to engage with legislators, and the requisite discussion of opioids. As an AAFP-organized conference, Summit topics skewed heavily towards changes in the health care landscape in the United States today and how these changes affect the practicing family physician.

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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.

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STFM’s Top 10 Ways to Win (Policy) Friends and Influence (Government) People

by Joseph W. Gravel, Jr, MD and Hope Wittenberg, MA

Wikipedia defines advocacy as “an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions.” This blog will focus on federal legislative advocacy, but you can use the very same skills in state or local legislatures, your home institution, or advocating for patients in the course of your work.

# 1: Begin With the End in Mind

Identify what change you want, how to make it happen, and who can make it happen. For example, is the issue a federal law that needs changing? Which committees have jurisdiction over that issue? Who sits on that committee? If it’s not legislation, who holds the decision-making power? Refining the problem and the solution you want, along with knowing who can make it happen, is the first step to moving forward with an advocacy goal. When you meet with who can make it happen, come ready with viable solutions, not just problems. There’s power in providing viable solutions, as you could be essentially writing a bill’s “first draft”, even if/when your ask gets amended in the legislative process.

#2: “Friends” Wasn’t Just a 90’s Show

Are you alone in trying to create change? Who can you identify that might strengthen your position? With whom might you ally? There is strength in numbers and power in broad movements. A corollary question is who would oppose the change you want? What are their arguments and how can you address them? Can you change their minds?

#3: Tell Me a Story. I Like Stories

How do you reach people to gain their support? Data and facts are important, but not enough. With advocacy, forget what you learned in professional school about the scientific method and the problem with anecdotal evidence. You’re not writing a paper here. Anecdotes are often more powerful than data in the advocacy realm. You need to develop a good story that both portrays the problem you are trying to solve and captures one’s attention at an emotional level. What are the key reasons to support your cause that would reach someone? Use examples that come from your patients, practice, or neighborhood. Remember that your community is your legislator’s community as well, and their job is to represent you and the community. (Read the blog posts Moving Away From Data Points and Back to the Patient Story and From Journalism to Medicine: Not Such a Huge Leap After All to be prepared.)

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