Jen Hartmark-Hill, MD
One of my top priorities for staying involved in health care advocacy is to promote a better future for my students.
As a medical educator, I often ponder the uncomfortable paradox of training medical students to become “ideal” physicians, only to send them out into a far less than ideal health care system upon graduation. Preparing and educating future physicians to lead health care transformation is essential, but we who serve as educators and role models cannot stop there.
Nicholas Cohen, MD
Since medical school, I have seen the unrivaled value family physicians provide to the patients they see. I was unaware—until this month—of the impact family physicians can have beyond their clinic walls on the health of their community at the local, regional, and national level. Our potential impact in this expanded sphere became clear to me on a visit to Capitol Hill with the Family Medicine Congressional Conference.
What is the Family Medicine Congressional Conference?
FMCC attendees outside the office of Senator Sherrod Brown.
It is a 2-day conference in Washington, DC, open to anyone in family medicine. Day one I learned about the current priorities in family medicine and received practical, hands-on training in advocacy. Day two I visited members of Congress with others from my state in prearranged meetings to engage legislators in issues important to me and my patients.
Attending the Family Medicine Congressional Conference in Washington, DC, last month was an amazing experience.
Physicians, residents, and students spent the first day immersing ourselves in family medicine action on Capitol Hill. Thought-provoking discussions on family medicine pipeline and payment reform helped me understand how these issues affect students currently and will continue to do so in the near future. Issues like ensuring continued funding for National Health Service Corps so students can follow their convictions and work in underserved areas. Advocating for a permanent repeal to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) so students don’t have to worry about the financial stability of their future practices. And encouraging modernization of Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding so our training can more fully reflect who we are as family physicians.
After the first day of updates on family medicine’s governmental advocacy, we were able to meet Congressional Representatives, Senators, and their aides. The Missouri Academy of Family Physicians delegation and I were able to sit down and talk with US Representative Russ Carnahan about what we had learned the previous day. We told him about two House Bills related to GME funding reform and SGR repeal and urged him to support the future of family medicine (and possibly be a co-sponsor on the bills).
I’m a political junkie, so meeting Rep. Carnahan was exhilarating. I was so happy that I was able to talk to him about the importance of protecting National Health Service Corps funding and other issues that affect students. Reflecting on my experiences at this conference, I am 100% positive that a student’s voice is incredibly important on Capitol Hill. Hearing a student like me talk about my $200,000 debt upon graduation and how vital pipeline and payment reform are in ensuring that all patients have a family doctor is a message that all legislators need to hear.
Advocating on behalf of the future of family medicine is advocating on behalf of the future of health care in this country. I encourage all students to become involved in advocacy because we have an important voice, and we will form the backbone of the next generation of physicians.
For more information on medical student advocacy check out these resources:
The 2014 Family Medicine Congressional Conference April 7-8
Students, Residents: Stand Up and Make a Difference for Family Medicine
Watch advocacy videos and view the advocacy toolkit