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Tuesday Oct 21, 2014

Physicians Are Directly Impacted by Government, so You Should Directly Influence Government

On Nov. 4, Americans will go to the polls to elect national, state and local officials. At stake are 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 33 in the U.S. Senate and governorships in 36 states. Clearly, these elections will have a profound impact on our country.  

Politics and participation in the political process is probably best described as an uncomfortable necessity. The advancement of sound public policy is often dependent on successfully navigating the political process, and navigating the political process often allows for the advancement of sound public policy. Physicians, during the past two decades, have begun to see the value of active participation in the political process at both the state and federal levels.  

In 2005, the AAFP established the Family Medicine Political Action Committee, better known as FamMedPAC. The AAFP realized that the absence of a collective voice for family medicine in the political process was hindering our ability to successfully advocate on behalf of patients and our members. This decision, while not easy, was the right one. The most successful advocacy organizations, regardless of industry, use a four-prong approach to their work -- lobbying, member advocacy, policy development/research and political advocacy. Each of these is important and complementary to the other three.

FamMedPAC is the AAFP’s political advocacy arm. It is the voice of family medicine and patients in the political process. FamMedPAC contributed nearly $400,000 to 100 congressional candidates: 58 Democrats and 42 Republicans in 2013. The PAC is nonpartisan, working to elect -- and re-elect -- legislators who are willing to work with us on issues that are important to family medicine. Many state chapters provide the same advocacy through state political action committees that represent your interests in state capitols.

Randy Wexler, M.D., M.P.H., Chair of the FamMedPAC Board, often says, “if you are involved in medicine, you are involved in politics.” I tend to agree -- with a twist. My version goes like this, “Your profession is directly impacted by government, so you should directly influence government.” An important way that you can directly influence government is through a collective voice of family physicians, best represented by FamMedPAC.

This important organization has been supported by nearly 7,000 family physicians since its establishment. During the 2013-2014 election cycle, FamMedPAC has engaged 128 members of Congress and senators on behalf of family medicine. I encourage each of you to consider participating in our political advocacy activities by supporting FamMedPAC.

Each of us, as individuals, decides who we vote for based on a variety of issues, personal beliefs, and desires for our country. Although I would never attempt to prioritize the criteria by which you should cast your vote, I do encourage you to include the viability of our health care system, your patients and your profession among the factors you consider when determining who to vote for next month. It is important that family physicians, as advocates for patients, voice our opinions through the electoral process. The ability to participate in our representative government is a hallmark of our democracy. I urge each of you to exercise this right and vote.  

Remember this famous William E. Simon quote, “Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”

Welcome to Washington, D.C.!  
For those of you joining us this week for Congress of Delegates and/or AAFP Assembly, welcome! Washington -- which is home to the Academy's government relations office and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care -- is one of the world’s most important and historic cities.

Washington often gets described in pejorative terms. Although the descriptions may apply to the work that takes place in D.C., they do not apply to the city as a historical destination. Washington is home to the U.S. Capitol, the White House, some of the world’s finest museums, the beautiful National Mall, and a number of monuments, statues and memorials that recognize our history.  It also is home to a surprisingly vibrant food scene -- at all prices.

Here are 10 recommendations on how best to enjoy your experience in our nation’s capital:

  • Don’t rent a car. The city is difficult to navigate, traffic is infuriating and parking will cost you $40 to $50 per day.
  • Do walk. D.C. is one of those rare cities that can be easily navigated on foot. Bring comfortable shoes, discover a great city and burn some calories while you are at it.
  • Do run or bike on the Mall. A morning run on the Mall will give you great views of the Capitol and monuments. You can rent bikes from a variety of places in the city. Ask your hotel where the closest spot is for you.
  • Do ride the Metro(www.wmata.com). The Metro system is one of the nicest, cleanest public transportation systems in the world. You can take it anywhere in the city and surrounding counties and find yourself within a few blocks of almost any destination.
  • Don't stand on the left side of the Metro escalators. Just remember, “walk left, stand right.”
  • Don't try to hold the Metro doors open. They are not like elevator or other electronic doors, and they do not open when you stick your hand, arm, handbag, etc. between them. In fact, they will simply close on that item. Be safe, and wait for the next train.
  • Do visit a museum. Washington is home to most of the Smithsonian Institute Museums. They are free and have generous hours. D.C. also is home to a number of private museums. I highly recommend the Newseum. Assembly Celebration on Friday will take us to four of the city's finest museums. 
  • Do visit the National Zoo. Besides being free, the zoo is a great place to go for a walk and see the animals.
  • Don't eat every meal at the hotel. D.C. has amazing food options at all price points. Get out and enjoy some new culinary experiences. For the best ethnic food, drift towards the neighborhoods versus downtown. If you are up for a true D.C. experience, head to U Street, NW and Ben’s Chili Bowl. Take cash because they do not take credit or debit cards.
  • Do walk by the White House at night. I recommend that you start at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania streets and head west. You can circle the entire property in less than 30 minutes.  

Posted at 07:59AM Oct 21, 2014 by Shawn Martin

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Shawn Martin, AAFP Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Practice Advancement and Policy.

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.