By: Daniel Lackey, MD, Division of Emergency Medicine, PGY2, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
I am on the cusp of entering my third year of residency at Washington University and becoming a senior resident. This coming year, I’ll be taking on leadership roles in the department, educating our incoming interns, getting my feet wet in administration and performing QI projects. We obviously wear many hats in emergency medicine and during residency we get a chance to try them on. Advocacy however, is not usually included in our formal residency training. Having just returned from ACEP’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference (LAC), I’d like to share my experiences with you and hopefully convince you that advocacy is a worthwhile hat to try on.
LAC is ACEP’s annual advocacy conference where issues important to emergency medicine are discussed and presented directly to U. S. senators and representatives by emergency physicians. The conference is held over four days in Washington, D.C. each spring.
Day 1: Health Policy Primer- A must for all first time LAC attendees. EMRA (Emergency Medicine Resident Association) and ACEP’s Young Physician Section put together a series of lectures to introduce first-timers to advocacy. Each session was 30 minutes long and ran like a crash course. We were introduced to basics of health policy, current issues facing emergency medicine, and a brief look into the future of ED care with current changes in legislation. We learned secrets of giving presentations from a national expert. A happy hour capped it all off along with a reception that overlooked the White House, absolutely beautiful views.
Day 2: Policy, Advocacy and Politics- The meat and potatoes of the conference. We heard about the inevitable changes ahead for emergency medicine as payment models move away from fee for service and toward quality measures. The presidents of ACEP, the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA) gave their viewpoints on this as well as a host of other issues, especially the opioid epidemic. One of the highlights of the day was a talk given by Charlie Cook, a respected, non-partisan political analyst. During lunch he gave a rundown on the “unique” atmosphere surrounding the current elections and why this time is different than any point in recent political history. He was an amazing speaker.
Day 3: Lobbying- The real point of the whole conference. More than 450 emergency physicians from around the country all lobbied their Congressional leaders on the same day. It was a very powerful display, seeing physicians working as a united front. We went to Capitol Hill after a primer from the ACEP president and other leadership. During the sit down meetings, we advocated on behalf of a bill allowing paramedics to continue to be able to use controlled substances. After discussing the bill with U.S. Rep. Clay, he agreed and pledged his support. We also addressed the opioid epidemic and its effect on our patients, the lack of mental health funding and the resultant long boarding times in the ED, and finally EMTALA federal liability protection. The reception after was in the senate room were the Watergate hearings were held.
Day 4: Wrap-up- This half day was about leadership. Dr. Steve Stack, the president of the AMA and an Emergency physician, went over the AMA’s strategic plan for the future. Lectures and discussions focused on leadership innovations, education, diversity in leadership and bringing young physicians into leadership roles.
Overall, the conference was exceptional. It was well organized with great content. We were able to advocate directly to our legislators or their representatives. Networking opportunities abound with leadership from MOCEP, EMRA, ACEP, AMA and AHA in attendance. I was educated on the challenges and changes to come in emergency medicine. In our free time, we saw the National Mall, visited the museums and went to restaurants around the city.
My main take away from my time at LAC is that it is no longer enough to just be a great clinician. We, as residents and young physicians, need to know the issues that will shape our EDs, our future careers and most importantly, the health of our patients. We must advocate for what we think this future should look like. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” was the underlying theme of LAC. Get involved in your hospital’s administration, join MOCEP, attend advocacy day in Jefferson City, and go to LAC 2017!