“#SGIM24 has a variety of symposia, updates, workshops, and interest groups where attendees can learn more about advocacy and develop skills that they can take back to their state and local institutions.”

Many SGIM members are passionate about issues affecting the health of our patients, the well-being of healthcare professionals, and our ability to effectively practice in hospital and outpatient settings. SGIM members want to add advocacy to our role as general medicine physicians since we see the broad picture of health including the impact of social determinants of health. Some believe advocacy is an integral component of being a medical professional.1 SGIM has offered the Leadership in Health Policy (LEAHP) program since 2017—it is a year-long mentored program for those who want to make advocacy a focus of their careers.2 LEAHP provides knowledge, attitude, and skill development and primarily uses federal health policy and advocacy as its curricular focus.

As state and local governments pass laws that impact the health of our patients, the SGIM Council heard the call for more support for state and local advocacy, especially from those attending #SGIM22 and #SGIM23. Participation in state and local government and health system advocacy efforts can benefit healthcare professionals and the communities they serve. Involvement in advocacy allows physicians to connect with their state and local communities, as we educate our policy makers while providing data and stories about our patients and communities. Especially at the local level, policy makers are often surprised to hear directly from physicians. Over time, this engagement builds relationships and fosters trust and understanding among physicians, our patients, and policy makers.

In 2024, SGIM is developing plans to better support members in state and local advocacy, including activities at #SGIM24. SGIM’s Health Policy Committee (HPC) focuses on federal policy and advocacy for SGIM and our members. They are effective in helping us target our federal advocacy to have the greatest impact on academic general internal medicine (e.g., physician payment reform, funding of primary care training and health services research). SGIM leadership recognized that this left a gap at the state and local level and that SGIM can support members in their advocacy work in other ways.

The following are 6 ideas discussed at the Council retreat in December 2023:

  1. Make SGIM position statements, other policy statements, and amicus briefs that SGIM is asked to support, easy for members to access. SGIM’s new website, launched in February, will house these documents.
  2. Encourage workshops at national and regional meetings to train members in advocacy and create networks for those interested in state and local advocacy work. These activities will be an essential component of #SGIM24. In addition, SGIM Council is working with the Board of Regional Leaders to determine how best to involve the regions and their meetings. The HPC has been looking at ways to offer workshops (e.g., a skill building workshop—Advocacy 101) at regional meetings and welcomes input on this from regional leaders.
  3. Identify champions within regions who are passionate about advocacy and could serve as mentors to regional leaders. Advocacy is a mobilizing force that can happen between meetings and can engages trainees, showing them the value of SGIM as more than “just a meeting.”
  4. Build a relationship with the American College of Physician (ACP) at the state level, starting in states where ACP has strong advocacy activities, and coordinate with national ACP to share advocacy resources and training efforts. Many members have informal connections with ACP national and chapter leaders. Regional advocacy champions could connect with state (ACP) organizations and explore how best to collaborate on state level advocacy. At the same time, SGIM leadership will continue to work on ways to formalize this collaboration.3
  5. Develop a position paper that can be used by members to advocate for their promotion and tenure committees (P&T) to include advocacy work as scholarship in the P&T process and encourage talks and workshops on documenting advocacy as scholarship for a curriculum vitae.4, 5 This would be analogous to SGIM’s position papers and workshops on education and quality improvement scholarship. Members need to report to and be recognized by their institutions for the work they do on behalf of their patients.
  6. Assure that SGIM continues to assist members in their advocacy efforts, potentially adding a HPC subcommittee focused on advocacy education.

The SGIM Council will work to implement plans for the 6 strategies over the next several years. We will be looking to our committees, commissions, and members with advocacy skills to help us create and support these resources.

Local advocacy at SGIM Annual Meetings is more important than ever as a growing number of states have policies counter to our values. At #SGIM24, the advocacy focus will be on decreasing the burden of firearm injury. The chair for advocacy programming, Dr. Chana Sacks, has expertise in this area and is based at Harvard Medical School. A HPC member served as the co-chair for advocacy programing in 2024. All future Annual Meetings committees will have a chair and HPC co-chair for advocacy to help guide meeting planning to support state and local advocacy. If you are interested in being involved, #SGIM25 is looking for a chair for advocacy (Contact SGIM President-Elect, Jada Bussey-Jones). Finally, LEAHP scholars have been asked to consider policy issues within their state as they develop workshops for national and/or regional meetings.

Our Annual Meeting, #SGIM24, has a variety of symposia, updates, workshops, and interest groups where attendees can learn more about advocacy and develop skills that they can take back and use for advocacy in their state and local institutions. Four special symposia will highlight activities and members doing work at the state and local level, including the following:

  • “Paths to Increased Funding for Primary Care Practice: Creating an Action Plan”
  • “Advocate for Health Policy in Your State—With Whom, to Whom, and How?”
  • “More than Just Talk: Advancing Health Equity through Policy Change” and
  • “Turning Despair into Action—Generalists as Advocates for Gender Affirming Care.”

These will introduce attendees to SGIM colleagues who are advocating for change, including their successes, setbacks, and strategies. Our goal is to provide attendees with knowledge and strategies for their own advocacy efforts.

In addition, several workshops will help attendees build their skills in advocacy, including:

  • “Is the Pen Mightier than the Stethoscope? How to Write Impactful Op-Eds”
  • “A Story in 2 Minutes or Less—How to Present Legislative Testimony” and
  • “Climbing the Hill—Empowering Physicians to Participate in Legislative Advocacy.”

Special symposia will cover strategies, using real examples, and workshops will help build skills for SGIM members to be effective advocates for issues important to them. Please let us know if we have accomplished these goals by completing evaluations for these sessions.

By actively participating in state and local government and institutional advocacy efforts, SGIM members can have a positive impact on healthcare policies, patient outcomes, and the overall well-being of our communities. I am confident that symposia and workshop presenters and interest group organizers will help members get involved with advocacy efforts. Many times, good ideas bubble up from our interest groups through our committees and commissions to the Council. This is a good example for how this happens. Keep your ideas coming. We look forward to seeing you at #SGIM24.

References

  1. Earnest MA, Wong SL, Federico SG. Physician advocacy: What is it and how do we do it? Acad Med. 2010 Jan;85(1):63-7. doi:10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181c40d40.
  2. Kyanko KA, Fisher MA, Riddle-Jones L, et al. National Health Policy Leadership Program for General Internists. J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Dec;37(16):4137-4143. doi:10.1007/s11606-022-07455-y. Epub 2022 Feb 23.
  3. Gerrity M. Building relationships and advancing advocacy. SGIM Forum. https://www.sgim.org/article/building-relationships-and-advancing-advocacy/. 46(11):3, 10-11. Published November 2023. Accessed February 15, 2024.
  4. Expressions of scholarship. Duke Univ Sch Medicine. https://medschool.duke.edu/about-us/faculty-resources/faculty-appointments-promotion-tenure/clinical-science-apt/faculty-3. Accessed February 15, 2024.
  5. Nerlinger AL, Shah AN, Beck AF, et al. The advocacy portfolio: A standardized tool for documenting physician advocacy. Acad Med. 2018 Jun;93(6):860-868. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000002122.

Issue

Topic

Advocacy, Annual Meeting, Health Policy & Advocacy, SGIM

Share