Advocacy and Mentorship: Tales From the ACC Legislative Conference

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Every Fall, members of the ACC unite in Washington, DC, to advocate for patients and meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. This year's ACC Legislative Conference included a record-breaking 94 cardiology fellows.

As a first-year cardiology fellow, this was the first time I immersed myself in the experience. During my college and medical school years, I developed a passion for health policy and bringing about a positive change through advocacy, which made being able to attend the ACC Legislative Conference a particularly special opportunity.

The ACC Women in Cardiology Leadership Council had a workshop that began with a fantastic networking lunch led by Toniya Singh, MBBS, FACC; Gina P. Lundberg, MD, FACC; Garima Sharma, MBBS, FACC; and Tina Shah, MD, FACC. We discussed career development and transitions, negotiating contracts, promotion of women in the academic setting, and the ability to remain academic in private practice.

Director of ACC Media Relations Nicole Napoli highlighted the incredible opportunity to educate about cardiac issues on large platforms through media. CEO of Babyation Samantha Rudolph shared her inspiration to modernize the breast pump to allow a woman to pump in convenient places that do not disturb workflow, which is important to many women in cardiology who balance being a new mother and a demanding career.

The workshop allowed for mentorship from cardiology fellows and attendings at all phases in their careers. It truly was women supporting women, each of whom provided a unique insight based on her own set of experiences. I left the workshop feeling empowered as the speakers encouraged us to recognize and own our potential as women – we can accomplish any goal we work towards!

I appreciated the opportunity to meet lawmakers on Capitol Hill with members of the ACC Georgia Chapter, which included cardiologists, cardiology fellows and nurse practitioners. Our day on Capitol Hill started in Rep. John Lewis' office, where walls were covered in pictures that demonstrated the tremendous work he has done as a leader for the civil rights movement.

We discussed important pieces of legislation that affect both patients and cardiology providers, including a prior authorization reform bill that would protect patients in Medicare Advantage from unnecessary prior authorization processes that limit seniors from having timely access to medically necessary care.

We also discussed a bill that would allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists to supervise cardiac rehab programs. Given the known relationship between smoking and coronary artery disease amongst other cardiac pathologies, we emphasized the need to raise the minimal sale age of tobacco to 21 years old.

We also advocated for an amendment to the Public Health Service Act to improve funding and awareness for research in cardiovascular health in South Asians, as they are known to have four times the risk for coronary artery disease compared to the general population.

The ACC Legislative Conference allowed us the opportunity to come together as a cardiology community to educate and advocate for our patients, which was truly a privilege.

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This article was authored by Sonali Kumar, MD (@SonaliKumarMD), Fellow in Training (FIT) at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.