Advocacy | A Tale of Two Fellows

Sarina Sachdev, MD, and Sravya Chirumamilla, MD, report on their unique experiences at ACC's 2018 Legislative Conference.

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Politics have never been my forte. I follow the major headlines, but never fully understood the intricacies of it.

Recently, I found myself right in the middle of the action at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, where I attended ACC's 2018 Legislative Conference on behalf of the ACC Alabama Chapter. As I perused through the itinerary for the conference days, I was uncertain of my role as a cardiology fellow and of what the ACC could do to impact a change.

The day before our "Visit on the Hill," we gathered with other representatives of our state to discuss the key topics on the docket for this year's meeting.

One key issue to advocate for was increasing awareness of cardiovascular disease in South Asians, and promote funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health to enhance research and medical innovation to better care for this patient population. As a South Asian, I eagerly volunteered to represent my community.

The following day we met with our congressional representatives. The first meeting of the day was with Senator Doug Jones. As he listened attentively, I briefly explained the few bullet points I wrote down the night before.

I was sure to be complete in the message I wanted to convey, but concise as I knew his time was valuable. As the day progressed, I grew more confident in my delivery.

Before I knew it, I was already on the plane back to Alabama. While in flight, I reflected on the long and tiring day. I realized the magnitude of the actions that the ACC accomplished in just this one day.

Members came to Washington, DC, from all over the U.S. to voice important issues and concerns within the cardiology community. This valuable experience enabled me to serve my community beyond the walls of the hospital and take on a role that extends beyond patient interaction.

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Washington, DC, seems to always have construction and renovation projects underway, perpetually reinventing itself; a bustling, busy metropolis. Away from the din of tourist groups, protesters and the 24-hour news cameras, legislative aides dutifully answer to constituents, lobbyists and colleagues to put together legislation.

ACC's Advocacy division identifies, authors and promotes legislation that advances the goals of the ACC, laying the foundations for our collaborative efforts.

There is something sacrosanct about the halls of Congress – with offices of ideologically opposite representatives adjacent to one other. It is refreshing to see that proximity without physical barriers in these hallowed quarters.

The ACC Political Action Committee (ACCPAC) supports members in both parties who are aligned with our goals. By offering bipartisan support, the ACCPAC opens doors for discussions with allies in both parties, and facilitates collaboration among our legislators.

ACC's 2018 Legislative Conference provided a platform for dialogue between participating members and our government representatives.

In preparation, members were educated about legislation, conducted informative role-play scenarios of Hill visits, and provided networking opportunities. There were sessions geared toward our CV Team members, Fellows in Training, and Women in Cardiology. Throughout the conference, senators, representatives and their aides were surprisingly accessible to ACC members.

While the conference offered a platform to network with government officials at the national level, our work is not complete. It is now our responsibility to foster these relationships and continue our grassroots efforts to advocate for our profession and patients at both the local and state level.

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This article was authored by Sarina Sachdev, MD, a Fellow in Training (FIT) at the University of South Alabama, College of Medicine and Sravya Chirumamilla, MD, a Fellow in Training at Kettering Medical Center in Kettering, OH.