HomeNews & EventsPublicationsMind Matters - Summer 2021Importance of Advocacy in Residency and Beyond

Importance of Advocacy in Residency and Beyond

Summer 2021  | Issue 47

Importance of Advocacy in Residency and Beyond
By: Nik Raju, MD
April was IPS Advocacy Month. To kick off advocacy efforts in April, IPS hosted a virtual session called Advocacy 101, led by Daniel Yohanna, MD. Dr. Yohanna is the past president of IPS, a current member of the IPS Government Affairs Committee, and the Interim Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. IPS Lobbyist Mark Peysakhovich and APA Region 2 Senior Regional Director of State Government Affairs Amanda Chesley, JD also provided valuable insights into advocacy through their efforts directly working with policymakers.
Advocacy can be outside the comfort zone for many of us. We went into medicine with the goal of helping patients achieve and maintain optimal health. During medical school and residency, we are expected to master the core biopsychosocial principles with the goal of providing the best possible care to each and every patient. However, in order to best provide for our patients, it is just as important to be involved in advocacy and policymaking efforts that affect the care we provide.
State and national legislators who make the laws that affect the care we provide often do not have the direct patient care experience and expertise that we bring to the table, as the leaders of the health care team. As experts in mental health care, it is even more important as current and future psychiatrists to make our voices heard to legislators so that we can best care for our patients, especially since there are many misconceptions of mental health issues from lawmakers.
Dr. Yohanna and other IPS members encouraged the audience to start off with simple tasks to get involved in advocacy. This includes learning who our federal and state legislative district representatives are and sending them a quick email message or making a quick phone call introducing ourselves as constituents and as well as providing a position on current bills, such as HB-3498 on Telehealth Services. Most importantly, communication efforts with legislators should include connecting our position and messaging to how this will benefit the district’s constituents as a whole.
In the past, IPS members met in-person with Illinois state legislators in Springfield on annually, which is the most effective way to advocate for our patients and our profession. Dr. Yohanna and IPS members who previously attended these bus trips to Springfield recommended preparing a 30-second elevator pitch on a current mental health bill. These in-person advocacy events are on hold on the moment due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but a virtual teleconference event with key legislators was held with IPS members as part of Advocacy Month.
Hopefully we will be able to resume in-person advocacy events in Springfield next year once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Now is the time to start working on those elevator pitches!
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