40 physicians and friends of medicine gathered at the headquarters of the Oregon Medical Association (OMA) on January 24th for “Learn to be Your Best Advocate.” the first of 8 Regional Campaign and Grassroots Seminars to be co-hosted by AMPAC and state medical societies in 2014. The 6-hour training featured practical tips for improving physicians’ legislative and political effectiveness in both Salem and Washington, DC.
The session began with a welcome from OMA member and Oregon State Senator Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward, MD, who reminded the attendees that they have a unique opportunity to influence public policy while also urging them to craft clear and concise advocacy messages to her colleagues in the state capitol.
John Horvick of Oregon polling firm DHM Research provided an overview of how polling and survey research is used by candidates and advocacy campaigns. He also provided the results of a January 2014 survey on public perceptions of physicians. Not unlike AMPAC’s own Physicians as Candidates Research project, DHM found that the public sees physicians as the most likely profession to act honestly and with ethical standards.
Bryan Wahl of Government Affairs Strategies helped the attendees develop effective legislative and advocacy strategies and messages. As always, physicians were reminded that lawmakers hold tremendous power over how physicians practice medicine, even if legislators are not always knowledgeable about health care. Nevertheless, lawmakers do want to solve problems, so physicians should remember they have answers to complex questions that can help lawmakers do a better job. Mr. Wahl also stressed having a proactive positive agenda for advocacy efforts.
Jim Wilson of AMA Political Education staff provided concrete ways for attendees to be more effective on the political side of the advocacy equation. Getting involved in Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) activity for friendly candidates (particularly important in vote by mail Oregon, where GOTV is very volunteer intensive) and fundraising techniques were discussed.
Anna Richter Taylor and Michele Cole, from the media relations firm Gallatin Group, provided press relations/crisis communications strategies. In today’s 24/7 news cycle reporters are always rushed for deadlines and physicians should not assume that a reporter has complex scientific evidence and data at his/her disposal. Akin to their dealings with legislators, physicians have information that reporters need to do a better job explaining complex issues. Physicians should therefore try to develop relationships with reporters.
Finally, Angela Wilhelms, former Chief of Staff to the Co-Speaker of the Oregon House, provided a “Campaign 101” session for physicians considering seeking public office. She focused on some of the elementary steps candidates have to take (getting on the ballot, financial disclosure), and the type of commitment a campaign requires.
The Oregon program was well received by attendees, with 93% rating it either excellent (60%) or good (33%). The Seminar with OMA was the first of seven AMPAC co-hosted with state societies in 2014.