In 2016, less than 4% of ACR/ARHP members invested in RheumPAC (and only 1% of fellows). Since its inception, RheumPAC has never had more than 5% (400 members) of members invest in our advocacy undertakings. To put these numbers in perspective, Medical PACs associated with orthopedic surgery, physical therapy and cardiology receive donations from 10, 20, even 40% of their members. Outside of medicine, PACs in other fields, such as real estate and trial law, receive donations from over half of their membership. Although the amount of money is always a focus, the number of members contributing that money is equally important, because it tells legislators how engaged the membership of a group is in policy and advocacy.
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Explore This IssueMay 2017
Many FITs have told us their hesitation to participate is largely due to financial strains and/or uncertainty around how to participate. We are sensitive to rheumatology fellows’ relatively low salaries and other financial burdens, especially those with families. But it’s important to know three things:
- No dollar amount is too small: $5, $10, $20—the price of a few Starbucks beverages per year, whatever you think you can afford—is sufficient and will increase our important participation rate.
- You are investing in the future of your career and profession: Money invested now can pay dividends later by supporting policy that supports us.
- Make an investment of your time: Rheumatology needs more of its members actively involved in advocacy to ensure its future.
It’s not just about money; there are many ways to get involved in advocacy during fellowship. In May and September, the ACR hosts annual advocacy days in Washington, D.C., when ACR/ARHP members visit congressional offices to advocate on the most timely and relevant issues.
The ACR has created a program, called Advocacy 101, through which fellows and program directors can attend the fall fly-in. Attendees participate in an intensive one-day crash course in politics and advocacy, followed by a day on Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress. This program has operated for two years and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. We expect interested fellows will be able to apply in June or July for the fall 2017 fly-in. And by the way, all costs are supported by the ACR!
Not interested or unable to fly anywhere? The ACR is always looking for fellows (and members) to meet with Congressional leaders in their district offices, at local events and/or campaign fundraisers to speak about our issues. These are often intimate settings of 10–20 people with the member of Congress, allowing longer and more extensive conversations (for example, providing examples of how certain policies affect your work as a constituent in their district).