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Explore This IssueJanuary 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Regardless of where we are on the political spectrum, we have to get engaged,” said Sen. Tim Hutchinson, senior director, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Washington, D.C., speaking at the 2016 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting.
As a former U.S. senator from Arkansas, Sen. Hutchinson talked about the importance of members in such organizations as the ACR to seek out local, state and federal legislative representatives to advocate for the interests of one’s group and profession.
He also emphasized how easy it can be. But before laying out the ways for getting engaged in advocacy, he encouraged physicians, in particular, to play a more active role in the political arena. “Doctors vote less than any other professionals,” he said, emphasizing that this is not a helpful start to make an impact on public policy.
To help encourage more involvement, Sen. Hutchinson described eight tips for advocacy that all build on what is most fundamental about advocacy—building relationships.
Get Engaged in Advocacy
The first tip is to simply request a meeting with a representative in any level of government. “You have to ask for a meeting,” he said. “Don’t be intimidated.” Saying that many people are reluctant to ask for such a meeting, particularly at the federal level, Sen. Hutchinson emphasized how accessible most representatives are to such meetings.
Once a meeting is set up, the second tip is to offer the representative a real-life, patient perspective on the issue you are advocating for. “The ACR can provide evidentiary arguments,” he said, “but only doctors can talk about how the public policy affects their patients.”
The third tip is to get to know the staff members in district, state, and federal offices, as these are the people who provide access to the representative. Staff that are important to know include the chief of staff, the scheduler and the legislative director.
Tip four is to offer a site visit at your practice to show how rheumatologists serve patients, how practices operate and what they need..
For physicians who want to get engaged on a more regular basis, they can offer to be a part of an advisory committee or act as an advisor to a representative on a healthcare issue (tip five). They can also stay engaged by regularly sending emails to staffers on issues they are concerned about (tip six).
For even more committed advocacy work, Senator Hutchinson said that attending or hosting a fundraiser is a way to strengthen a relationship (tip seven), as can volunteering on a campaign (tip eight). In terms of monetary support for building a relationship, Sen. Hutchinson said that expanding the support for a lawmaker, such as hosting a fundraiser and recruiting friends to come, is more important than giving a lot of money to the lawmaker or candidate.