More than 90 rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals and 30 patients met virtually with 149 legislators in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15 to advocate for telehealth and other ways to ensure access to care through the pandemic and beyond during the ACR’s annual Advocates for Arthritis event.
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The participants included 20 rheumatology fellows, program directors and ARP members who participated in the ACR’s Advocacy 101 training on Sept. 13. They used their training to give legislators direct insights into rheumatology and the unique challenges providers and patients must manage during the pandemic.
Advocacy 101 participants learned about federal and regulatory advocacy and worked in small groups to explore ways to implement the training.
“This program has promoted volunteerism in the ACR and trains enthusiastic advocates who speak up for their patients and profession,” says Blair Solow, MD, chair of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC). “In our first virtual Advocacy 101, I was thrilled with the transition made to a virtual platform by Bharat Kumar, MD. He thoughtfully created teaching modules to lay the foundation for the event.” Dr. Kumar is an Advocacy 101 coordinator and a GAC member.
Many of the Advocacy 101 talks were led by members of the GAC and covered key practice and legislative issues, ways to get involved, being an effective advocate and state advocacy.
GAC member Amanda Schnell, MD, spoke about personalized advocacy, how energized advocates can stay involved year-round and encourage others to participate, and why it is important to advocate for patients.
“I love this quote from Margaret Mead that was presented at Advocacy 101 when I participated as a first-year rheumatology fellow … ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has.’ Her words continue to inspire me today because it reminds me that it is important to take time away from my rheumatology practice to support effective advocacy of issues paramount to rheumatology,” Dr. Schnell says.
For Manjeet Singh Bhamra, MD, a second-year clinical rheumatology fellow at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, N.Y., participating in Advocacy 101 helped him learn how to be concise and clear in meetings with congressional staffers. “The staffers certainly appreciate it, and it forces you to understand and distill the issues to layman terms.”
Eric Dein, MD, a rheumatology fellow in Baltimore, and a participant in Advocates for Arthritis for the first time through Advocacy 101, learned it is essential to not only clearly deliver your message, but emphasize its direct impact on the field.