We are excited about the new year and hope you will become active, involved, and interested in the American Medical Association-Resident and Fellow Section (AMA-RFS)! The rising political climate is apparent every time we turn on the news or pick up a newspaper. In the presidential campaign, the issues of health care in the United States were front and center—both candidates had plans for reforming the medical liability system and solving the problem of the uninsured. The start of a new year and a new legislative session is the time when all medical professionals must step forward and champion the issues of medicine to protect our patients and peers.
In March 2005, the AMA's National Advocacy Conference (NAC) and American Medical Association Political Action Committee (AMPAC) Lobby Day will educate resident and fellow physicians about legislative advocacy, lobbying, and politics. Sessions will include lobbying basics and congressional testimony, political communication, campaign techniques, and other leadership seminars.
All resident and fellow physicians who are members of the AMA are invited to attend the AMPAC Lobby Day, scheduled for March 14, 2005. For more information, contact Charles Mashek at ccmashek@hotmail. com, Parag Parekh at firstname.lastname@example.org, or BrookeBuckley at email@example.com. You may also go to www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/12118.html for updates on this event.
Anyone interested in attending the NAC should register online as soon as possible, since space is limited, at www.ama-assn. org/go/nac.
The 5-Minute Legislative Consult
To help you make your advocacy and lobbying efforts a resounding success, we want to share with you the strategies developed by a former congressional staffer—the 5-Minute Legislative Consult.
Can you spare 5 minutes a week to make an impact on all your patients? With just 5 minutes a week, you can be involved in shaping the future of medicine. Everyone has at least 5 legislators—2 US senators, a US representative, a state senator, and a state representative. One 5-minute call a week to one of these legislators yields more than 10 contacts per year to each office. Your first impression might be "a 5-minute call won't do anything." Let's look at the math.
With an AMA membership of about 32,000 residents, if only 5% commit to making 1 call per week, that is 1600 contacts per week—more than 83,000 contacts per year to our legislative offices.
On the federal level, each congressman tracks each constituent contact. The congressmen continuously monitor how frequently constituents contact their office, and what their concerned issues are. Your contact directly determines what issues the legislators consider important, because you are the voter. A second and more powerful benefit is developing relationships—not necessarily with the legislators themselves but with the staff they trust to advise them on such matters.
The first step is getting to know your legislators. An excellent resource is the AMA in Washington Web site, www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/4015.html. The Web site helps you determine who your legislators are and gives you information on how to contact them. Before contacting their offices, educate yourself on the AMA federal advocacy issues and hot topics found at www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/7334.html. Another great resource is your legislators' congressional Web site. This will give you an idea of their positions on committees and issues they feel are important. The Senate Web site is www.senate.gov and the House Web site is www.house.gov. If you know of specific bill titles or issues, you may also search http://thomas.loc.gov.
After you have done your research, you can make your first call. You will most likely speak to a staff legislative assistant responsible for health care, your most important point of access. The legislative assistant is responsible for developing background materials, which often determines the legislator's vote. Repeated contacts will allow you to develop a relationship with the legislative assistant. You can also send an e-mail, but this cannot replace the personal interaction of a phone call. In addition, speaking about other issues of interest to you, such as education or the environment, strengthens your impact since you will not be seen as a "one-topic" constituent. With continued diligence in contacting your legislators, you may even find yourself as a person whom the office will contact when a sensitive issue arises to determine the opinions of your profession. They may ask for your advice.
For those who can attend the Lobby Day in Washington, DC, this plan can turn your visit from a nice day to a meaningful interaction. When you "show up on their doorstep" you may meet your congressmen for a few minutes before you are referred to their staff members. The staff members will probably listen to you and offer to get back to you later. If you have already developed a relationship, however, you can expect a more in-depth response from the legislators, who will know what you want to discuss and will have to address your issue directly. You may not get the answer you want, but you will now be "a face to the name."
Remember, your legislators work for you. You are a voter and their constituent. Legislators will listen to your message if you present it effectively and efficiently.
We hope you will take the opportunity to join fellow residents from across the country on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in March 2005, as we fight for our patients and colleagues. If you are an AMA member and want to attend the free Lobby Day, e-mail Brooke Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also register for the NAC and review the schedule at www.ama-assn.org/go/nac. Even if you cannot be there in person, you can make a difference by getting involved and contacting your legislators either in Washington, DC, or in their local offices.
Pick up the phone and help make a difference!
At the 2004 AMA Interim Meeting, the AMA-Resident and Fellow Section (RFS) elected Dr Joseph Craft as Chair-Elect and Dr Sunny Ramchandani as Vice Chair of the Governing Council.
Charles Caldwell Mashek, MD, MBA, Delegate, AMA Resident and Fellow Section
Parag Parekh, MD, MPA, Member-at-Large, AMA Resident and Fellow Section
Brooke Buckley, MD, AMPAC Board of Directors
Julie Talbott, Director, Department of Resident and Fellow Services