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 at least 6 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 for 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, as well as the results of their 2013 study of Oregonians’ values and beliefs. 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 professionals to act honestly and with ethical standards. This survey also discovered that physicians were the third likeliest profession Oregonians would vote for in an election, after small business owners and judges.
Bryan Wahl of Government Affairs Strategies helped the attendees develop effective legislative and advocacy strategies and messages. As always, physicians were reminded that lawmakers in Salem and DC 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 provided concrete ways for attendees to be more effective on the political side of the advocacy equation. “Using the White Coat” to involve patients on legislative advocacy, getting involved in Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) activity for friendly candidates (this is particularly important in vote by mail states like Oregon, where GOTV is very volunteer intensive), and fundraising techniques were all discussed.
Anna Richter Taylor and Michele Cole, both media relations veterans from the Gallatin Group, outlined press relations and crisis communications strategies. They touched on the absolute need for physicians who are or want to be in the public realm to develop a relationship with reporters, which will give them leeway when complex health care stores come to the public’s attention. It is important to remember that in today’s 24/7 news cycle that reporters are always rushed for deadlines, and that physicians and friends of medicine should not assume that a reporter has complex scientific evidence and data at his/her disposal, or has had time to get it. Like their dealings with legislators, physicians have information that reporters need to do a better job explaining complex issues. MS. Taylor and Cole emphasized the overwhelming importance of having and maintaining credibility.
Finally, Angela Wilhelms, government affairs professional and 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 time commitment a campaign requires.
The program was well received by attendees, with 93% rating it either excellent (60%) or good (33%). The January 24 Seminar with OMA was the first of at least six Regional Campaign and Grassroots Seminars co-sponsored by AMPAC and state medical societies. Upcoming Seminars will be co-hosted by-
- Kentucky Medical Association: February 26, 2014
- North Carolina Medical Society: March 22, 2014
- Ohio State Medical Association: April 4, 2014
- Medical Society of the State of New York: April 10, 2014
- Nevada State Medical Association: April 25, 2014
Stay tuned for more Seminars later this year!