“Doctors must be politically active or they will surrender the control of healthcare to others,” says Tim Hutchinson, former U.S. Senator from Arkansas (Republican), emphasizing the need for rheumatologists to become involved in advocacy given the particularly challenging environment caused by partisan polarization and gridlock in Washington—which is expected to continue regardless of the upcoming election outcome.
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“Whether Trump or Clinton wins the White House, there will be no traditional ‘honeymoon’ [phase] when the new president has the political support to enact large parts of their campaign promises,” Sen. Hutchinson says. “The challenging advocacy environment makes the political involvement of rheumatologists more critical than ever before.”
Workshop for Aspiring Advocates
To help rheumatologists become more involved in advocacy work within this challenging environment, Sen. Hutchinson will be presenting personal tips for effective advocacy in an interactive advocacy and training workshop at the upcoming ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 10:30–11:30 a.m. in Room 149A. This session is free to attend for all scientific registrants.
Kristen Burke, Schmidt Public Affairs, will also be participating in the workshop and will provide participants with easy ways to engage in advocacy efforts from home—that is, through the use of digital and social media.
Saying that the majority of lawmakers and their staff are on social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, she emphasizes the importance of using digital and social media for advocacy efforts, and will provide tips and tools to get started. “I will explain why this is important, who can be reached through online advocacy efforts and how attendees can get started,” she says.
Tip 1: Use the Legislative Action Center
One way to get started, she says, is to use the ACR Legislative Action Center. According to Ms. Burke, the workshop will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the policy work the ACR is doing through this powerful outreach mechanism. Through this portal, members can support ACR advocacy efforts by signing up to receive email updates on these efforts. Members can further use the Legislative Action Center to look up lawmakers and legislation, and easily contact their lawmakers about issues affecting their practices and patients, using pre-filled emails that include suggested talking points.
All of this, she emphasizes, can be done from home by using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and email. “Attendees will leave this session armed with [the] tools needed to start advocating from home on social media and via the ACR Legislative Action Center,” she says.
Social Media = Communication
Along with conveying the importance of engaging in advocacy efforts, as well as how easy and fun it can be, Ms. Burke emphasizes the important role of social media in making this possible. “It may seem hard to connect with a Congressperson from a distance,” she says, “but social media provides the opportunity to start a conversation about how policy decisions are impacting individuals with rheumatic diseases and the healthcare professionals who care for them.”
Sen. Hutchinson says doctors play a critical role in this conversation. “Physicians are more trusted and respected than other professionals,” he says, adding that politics is part of the healthcare system along with medicine and economics.
He urges members to attend the workshop during the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting. “The give and take of an interactive presentation cannot be replicated by watching online,” he says.
Mary Beth Nierengarten is a freelance medical journalist based in Minneapolis.