For fellows-in-training (FITs) who may be unaware, the advocacy arm of the American College of Rheumatology includes RheumPAC, our nonpartisan political action committee; the Government Affairs Committee (GAC); and the Committee on Rheumatologic Care (CORC). Together, these committees work to prioritize pertinent issues and educate elected officials on the needs of our profession and our patients.
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Explore This IssueMay 2017
Historically, physicians have tended to be apolitical. We spend our days working hard to improve the health and lives of our patients. Some may feel this is sufficient; some may feel they have no more to give. Many physicians find that the intrinsic values of our profession are out of alignment with the partisan nature of the political system. Unfortunately, as our country’s population has grown and medicine has become more complex and sophisticated, the government and the factions it oversees (FDA, insurance companies, etc.) have inextricably entwined with our professional and personal lives. Thus, encouraging, supporting and participating in political advocacy can be seen as an extension of our Hippocratic Oath.
“To do no harm” is our tenet, yet without having a voice in the verdicts and resolutions that govern our practice, can we truly feel that no harm is done? As in medicine, in advocacy and politics, doing nothing can be as significant as taking action.
Why Advocate as a Fellow?
Our elected officials make decisions every day that directly affect our work and the lives of our patients. These decisions are based on education and awareness presented by advocates, constituents and fellow lawmakers. The truth is that many members of Congress have very little idea what a rheumatologist is, much less what we do. To mitigate this, RheumPAC, GAC and CORC committee members, alongside other ACR/ARHP members and patient advocates, communicate both on and off The Hill with lawmakers and their staff. Whether in an office, at fundraising events or trying to catch a few minutes on a walk between meetings, our volunteers share the stories of our challenges and barriers to providing necessary care, the difficulties faced by our patients and the value of our research.
It is important to understand that to stay in office a member of Congress must raise an average of $18,000 a day. That number is not a typo. For better or worse, organizations that contribute to legislators’ campaigns have more opportunities to have their voices heard. This is why nearly every professional association has a political action committee (PAC) and why the ACR created RheumPAC 10 years ago. Regardless of personal ideals, it is political contributions that facilitate access to legislators and their staff.