How Can FITs Get Involved in Health Care Advocacy?

Introduction to the ACC Legislative Conference

ACC's 2018 Legislative Conference was an informative and educational experience for Fellow in Training (FIT) attendees. Over the course of the conference, we were introduced to the idea of health care advocacy, examined the issues affecting the geographic regions that we represent, and brainstormed ideas to promote and improve health care policy. Experts in the field prepared us for Capitol Hill meetings with our state legislators, both from the Senate and House of Representatives. Our opinions were heard as we closely interfaced with the highest echelon of our political system.

The experience left us all with a greater understanding of how and why we should get involved in advocacy efforts. We left feeling that every physician, from student doctor to attending, should be empowered to affect change both at the state and national level.

How Can FITs Get Involved in Advocacy on a Local Level?

First, find an issue that interests you. Reflect on your daily clinical experiences to identify ways to improve patient care. Once you have identified the causes that you are passionate about, the ACC can help take your plan to the next level. Contact your state chapter governor for advice on how to advance your agenda locally. Reach out to local or national ACC advocacy representatives for additional resources. The advocacy representatives can help you with a myriad of tasks in your advocacy efforts such as meeting with lawmakers, arranging hospital site visits and drafting thank you notes to your local legislators.

The next step is networking. Identify a mentor in your institution or region and find others to advocate with you. Contact your local state legislators to set up meetings to share with them your policy agenda items, and invite them to come to speak at your hospital. After you meet with the legislators, arrange for follow-up sessions to keep the momentum.

Your state's advocacy day is a great opportunity to initiate change at a local level. Each state typically has an advocacy day when your ACC chapter goes to the state capitol and meets with legislators to discuss policy. Contact your ACC state chapter and participate in these meetings to deliver your message. These grassroots events have the potential to snowball into high impact changes at the national level.

Finally, never underestimate the power of persistence. Policy change takes time, and with persistence, you can make a difference. It can be daunting to feel as if you have been assigned the task of drafting legislation and impacting change on a grand scale. However, through the concerted, consistent and collaborative efforts of FITs, we have been heard by our national legislators.

ACC's 2018 Legislative Conference was a window into the workings behind health care policymaking, providing first-hand insight into how health-related legislation is developed and implemented. We learned that FITs can indeed influence legislation on the state and national level, and enjoyed networking with like-minded FIT members, colleagues and leaders. Fellows are integral to the infrastructure of cardiovascular medicine – we encounter the daily challenges of patient care, and we should advocate for our patients.

This article was authored by Lina Ya'qoub, MD; Narayana Sarma V. Singam, MD; and Rajat Kalra, MBChB.