Some years ago, I traveled to Washington DC for a weekend of advocacy that turned out to be pivotal in my work for physicians and patients. Expecting to learn mostly by watching others, we spent several days learning from one another until the opportunity came to make a difference with policymakers right then. For several days, a group of some thirty physicians energized one another to such a degree that any isolation we’d felt up to that point dissipated, and our collective frustration turned into a fire of proactive energy that still burns today. We ignited each other’s passion by recognizing something powerful: we all cared deeply about our patients, high standards of care, and patient safety. We recognized we were all excellent, caring physicians wanting to do more in the midst of a healthcare crisis.
After an inspiring day of advocacy meeting with legislators, we gathered at the hotel to get to know one another. Having met most of the physicians throughout the day, I sat with a small group to share personal stories. Somehow a poem I’d published on my blog to inspire my colleagues came up. When my new friend, Dr. Barton, found out I was the author, a celebration ensued among the doctors that still makes me smile!
“You wrote that?” she asked, amazed at the seeming coincidence. Her enthusiasm brought me such joy, and she has since become a cherished colleague and friend. She calls my new book, Recapturing Joy in Medicine, “chicken soup for the physician’s soul.” Check it out!
Fast forward to spring 2019, when I had the opportunity to testify in health care committees several times at my state Capitol and meet one-on-one with legislators. This weekend I was honored to speak at a conference in Phoenix where I discussed (among other topics!) the power of advocacy. And just today, I loved the opportunity to meet with Senator Torres as a mother, physician, concerned citizen, and constituent alongside one of my favorite colleagues, an exceptional physician — the eloquent and courageous patient advocate, Dr. Nikie Shah. Together, we spoke up for patient safety and for the high standards of medical care we have enjoyed throughout our lives and want to protect for our children, families, and communities for years to come. And our voices were heard! A warm thank you to Senator Torres and his wonderful staff.
Such advocacy is empowering, and it is necessary. It gets easier the more you do it, and you keep learning as you go. I encourage every physician to get involved with local, state, and/or national advocacy. Our profession needs it more than ever, and our patients depend on it!
As you advocate for others, remember to be good to yourself!
P.S. The May-June issue of Family Practice Management published my poem for physicians, which is also included in the appendix of my new book. You may read the poem here.