My Experience at ACC's 2016 Legislative Conference
My experience at ACC's 2016 Legislative Conference exceeded my expectations. Though this was my initial visit to the Capitol with the ACC, it was not my first trip to DC as an advocate. I am a pediatric cardiologist and involved with the American Academy of Pediatrics. That work has included numerous advocacy events, with many trips to various states' and the national Capitols. I am certainly not an expert, but I've been involved enough to appreciate a well-organized event. I was not surprised to learn this was the 25th ACC Legislative Conference; the staff has clearly honed their skill over the past two and a half decades.
For those who have not attended such an event, the conference consisted of talks and seminars to prepare attendees for the trips to the Hill. As a pediatric cardiologist, I attended a special meeting Sunday afternoon, held by the Adult Congenital and Pediatric Cardiology Member Section before the formal conference commencement, to discuss issues relevant to our specialty. The Early Career Section also had a special session on Sunday.
The conference sessions were geared toward educating attendees about the main initiatives and bills as well as teaching basic advocacy skills. Even with my prior experience, I found the talks to be engaging and well developed. The pre-Hill visit sessions also included a breakout session on social media, which I found to be very interesting. Whatever your thoughts on the utility of social media, I believe advocates are remiss to ignore the power of a strong voice on social media outlets today. So that talk re-invigorated in me the importance of an "online presence" to discuss and highlight issues that are vital to our profession and patients. The conference organizers encouraged attendees to use the #ACCLegConf in all tweets; search for the hashtag to see everything that happened at the conference!
We ended the three-day conference with congressional visits. I currently practice in Jackson, MS, a state known for its hospitality. Not surprisingly, we were able to meet with the primary staffers and nearly all the representatives, as well. I was accompanied by two ACC "heavyweights," as well; Thad F. Waites, MD, FACC, the current chair of ACC's Health Affairs Committee, and William B. Calhoun, MD, FACC, governor of ACC's MS Chapter. We spoke with our leaders about MACRA, while thanking them for repealing SGR. We also requested additional funding for medical research, and a bill that will hopefully expand access to cardiovascular rehabilitation centers. All those topics are crucially important to our state, and we had solid and fruitful discussions with each office.
Given the above experience, I plan to remain engaged and attend the ACC Legislative Conference as often as I am able throughout my career. Remaining engaged with leaders can have a significant impact on the practice of our profession. This year, I learned more about MACRA and was excited to discuss future challenges and health care issues with our nation's leaders. I was also able to network with other ECPs and pediatric cardiologists. Overall, ACC's 2016 Legislative Conference was a great experience and will open doors for my career.
This article was authored by Sarosh P. Batlivala, MD, FACC, an associate professor of pediatric cardiology at The Children's Heart Center, Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, University of Mississippi Medical Center.