The ACR’s Advocacy 101 course will be held Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C. The course is an interactive, intensive, full-day opportunity for fellows in training and program directors to learn about and become inspired to advocate for the continued strength of rheumatology recruitment and support for education, research and clinical practice.
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Course applications will be accepted beginning July 13, with invitations extended the following month; the ACR will support travel expenses for the 12 fellows and three program directors who are invited to participate. The course is held in conjunction with the ACR’s Advocates for Arthritis event, to be held Sept. 24–26, an annual event that brings together rheumatologists, health professionals and patients to advocate on behalf of the rheumatology community.
Course Need, Impact & Importance
Fellowship training programs lack formal curricular content to educate trainees about state and national issues that impact the future of both academic and community practice, says Jiha Lee, MD, at Yale School of Medicine, and one of the six program organizers. Advocacy 101 is designed as a discussion-based opportunity for participants to learn about legislative and regulatory policies, with hands-on sessions to explore skills and tools for effective advocacy.
Former attendees of Advocacy 101, now in its third year, have described the program as informative and engaging, says Dr. Lee. Fellows have said that their knowledge of health policy and advocacy increased and that as a result of their participation they were more likely to get involved with the ACR, join volunteer committees, attend future advocacy fly-in events, and communicate with their local, state and federal representatives about issues important to rheumatology.
“One of the barriers to advocacy is that many people are uncomfortable with or don’t know how to advocate,” Dr. Lee says. “They view advocacy as political activism and not as the exercise of democratic rights. The organizers of Advocacy 101 make an effort to dispel these perceived barriers and to emphasize that, as physicians knowledgeable about the care of rheumatic diseases, we have a unique expertise to offer in educating others and in influencing the delivery of care through health policies,” she says.
Issues of Concern
Research funding has been a priority of ACR advocacy over the past few years and is especially important for fellows who are planning an academic career. “During Hill meetings, we find it valuable to add voices from fellows in training to advocate for increases in research funding for the future of rheumatology and patients,” Dr. Lee says.