When I started medical school, I never thought policy and advocacy were topics I would ever be interested in. In fact, I thought it was more about politics than supporting a cause. After getting involved with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, I found my passion supporting or advocating for issues I felt strongly about.
So what is advocacy? Advocacy is public support for particular cause or policy. Why advocate? As future physicians, we are leaders of our society. Our voice is important especially regarding the health of the population.
How do I go about expressing my voice and effectively lobbying for something I feel passionate about? This is where my prescription for effective lobbying comes in.
- Introduce yourself. Whether you are sending an email, calling, or visiting the Capitol in person, start by telling them who you are.
- Be polite and professional, including looking the part. It’s important to put your best face forward. Remember, your white coat goes a long way. It’s also important to be respectful and courteous while stating your views, even if the legislator disagrees with your position. Disrespect has never equaled achievement.
- Express a clear and concise objective. Think about a doctor’s appointment. You want to get straight to the point to get a response and feedback. This isn’t very different. After all, you and the legislator are both very busy people.
- State why the issue is important to you personally. This is key. If you have a personal story to tell, it will be way more compelling. For example, there was a “food bill” that needed support where tax incentives were provided to grocery stores in rural areas so that food is more accessible. One of my good friends from college lived in the delta. His parents had to drive one hour to the nearest grocery store. One hour! Can you imagine? Telling my story about my dear friend made a huge impact on advocating for the bill.
If you have enjoyed what I’ve shared about effective lobbying so far, then stay tuned for part two!