On April 15-19, AMPAC (the AMA’s political action committee) hosted the 2015 edition of the Campaign School in Arlington, VA. The passage of the SGR repeal (H.R. 2) in the U.S. Senate on April 14 set the tone for a very excited and engaged group of participants. There were a total of 28 participants: 19 physicians, 4 medical students, 4 spouses and one state society staffer. The participants came from 18 states: AZ, CA, DC, HI, IL, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, NV, NY, OH, PA, TN, TX, VA, and WI.
The Campaign School is AMPAC’s annual political training “boot camp” for AMA-member physicians and friends of medicine. Participants become campaign “staff” for one of two fictional Congressional candidates, and are lead through exercises in strategy, composing radio advertisements, social media usage and public speaking. For the second year in a row, the School included a Workbook sent to participants in advance that introduced fundamental concepts and exercises in strategy, vote targeting and social media tools. The Workbook once again proved valuable in providing all participants with fundamental preparation for the School.
As social and digital medial expand in importance for political and advocacy campaigns, a new session focused on the fundamentals of social media (tagging friends and posting photos in Facebook, the use of hashtags in Twitter), which set up an additional new exercise that each campaign team preparing campaign messages for specific social media platforms. One final new exercise adapted a previous crisis communications/press relations exercise into a facilitated session with a crisis communications expert.
A new addition to this year’s “faculty” was Congressman (and 2011 Candidate Workshop graduate) Ami Bera, MD. Dr. Bera spoke to the participants about his experiences as a campaigner and as a Congressman. He stressed the importance of campaign fundraising (especially in the era of “Super PACs”) and of physicians finding ways to connect with the voting public based on shared values. Longtime faculty and Campaign School alumni John O’Bannon, MD (Virginia House of Delegates) and Pat O’Bannon (Henrico County Supervisor) shared their decades-long experience in politics and related how what they learned in the Campaign School in the mid-1990s helped them each get and stay elected.
The Campaign School was once again very highly rated by the participants. On the main question, “This school increased my understanding of the basic elements involved in a successful political campaign,” 92% of respondents rated the School a 9 (4%) or a 10 (88%) on a 10-point scale.
Details for the 2016 Campaign School and Candidate Workshop are being finalized. Please look for a 2016 application for the programs soon!