On April 10, 35 physicians attended a Regional Campaign and Grassroots Seminar, co-hosted by the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) and AMPAC. The Seminar was held in advance of MSSNY’s Annual Meeting in Tarrytown, NY.
The Seminar opened with a compelling keynote address from William Spencer, MD, a practicing otolaryngologist and current elected representative from the 18th Legislative District of Suffolk County, NY. Dr. Spencer began the address by noting his own path to elected office, describing his realization that he was spending increasing amounts of time in his practice on administrative matters and less on patient care. He decided to seek a seat on the Suffolk County Council and was elected for the first time in 2011 by a mere 267 votes. As a county legislator, Dr. Spencer has found that his expertise and credibility as a physician is in great demand among his colleagues and state legislators as well, and he urged the attendees to become more involved in the political and policy process. He described his role in shepherding a first-in-the-nation ban on the marketing of energy drinks to children through Suffolk County Medical, on to MSSNY and then through to the AMA House of Delegates. Given the imprimatur of organized medicine, Dr. Spencer noted that it became significantly easier to pass such a ban on the county level.
Dr. Spencer exhorted his Empire State colleagues to become more involved in the political process as grassroots advocates, campaign volunteers and fundraisers, but also as candidates for public office. He concluded with a rhetorical question: “Is politics for you? Well, we already serve the public every day. We are already public officials. We have no choice but to become more politically involved,” or else physicians will find themselves dictated to by those without sufficient expertise in health care.
AMPAC faculty member Stephanie Vance followed up Dr. Spencer’s talk with tips on how physicians can be more engaged in the policy process as grassroots activists. She led attendees through an exercise in finding their legislators online and researching legislation that they have introduced. Ms. Vance also had attendees break into teams and practice “lobbying” her on important MSSNY policy priorities.
Jim Wilson of AMPAC concluded the session by offering practical tips for attendees to help elect allies of medicine as campaign volunteers and fundraisers. Mr. Wilson also offered suggestions for properly engaging the patient population on policy matters through direct steps like leaving brochures and flyers in a waiting room or wearing a button on a policy issue.
The Seminar was the fifth of seven AMPAC will co-host with state societies in 2014. Ninety percent of respondents rated the Seminar as excellent, and 5 percent rated it as good.