May 31, 2023
By Tochi Iroku-Malize, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.
The 2023 Family Medicine Advocacy Summit brought nearly 300 family physicians, residents and students to our nation’s capital to advocate for policies that support primary care practices and help us better care for our patients. It was a great way to start the summer and only reinforced my commitment to advocating for family medicine!
Speakers, including Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, Rep. Yadira Caraveo and CMS Deputy Administrator Jon Blum, outlined critical legislative and regulatory issues that stand to impact family medicine. But more importantly, they shared a universal message for family physicians: You, too, are advocates.
Every FMAS attendee met with their lawmakers and staffs and had critical conversations about the importance of primary care. We shared stories from our patients and their families. We outlined how, as trusted messengers and leaders, we shape our communities for the better.
We also asked for their support in three key areas to protect our patients and our practices: ensuring adequate Medicare payment, making investments in the primary care workforce and alleviating the administrative burden that takes time away from patients. Think about that: 300 family physicians were face-to-face with our nation’s leaders explaining what Congress can do to help us deliver high quality, equitable care to their constituents.
The best part is that our advocacy is working. On the heels of FMAS, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed legislation to reauthorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program with the longest extension and highest funding levels in the program’s history — a move that would provide stability and certainty for many primary care physicians practicing in underserved areas.
I’m fortunate that this isn’t the first time in 2023 I’ve been able to advocate for family medicine. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill with my fellow physician leaders at the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Osteopathic Association. We spoke with Congressional leadership and key lawmakers about the urgent need to continue bolstering the physician workforce and to protect the Medicaid program against harmful cuts and work requirements that would jeopardize access to care and our ability to care for our patients.
The idea of discussing health care issues with a policymaker may sound intimidating and daunting, but trust me when I say that there is no better group for legislators to hear from than us, family physicians. Through our hard work, the comprehensive care we offer our patients and the time we’ve spent on the front lines of a tripledemic, we have stories, experiences and ideas to share, and Congress is ready to listen.
Our passion for medicine and our commitment to public health doesn’t have to stay in the exam room or clinic — it can extend to our local and state legislatures, and the halls of Congress. With that in mind, the Academy has several ways for you to lend your voice.
Elected officials need to hear about your practice and your patients — no one makes a better case than you. Our Speak Out campaigns give you the opportunity to craft messages to your representatives and senators on key AAFP advocacy issues. In fact, you can echo our FMAS advocacy efforts today by asking your legislators to reduce administrative burden, invest in our workforce and protect Medicare beneficiaries.
I encourage you to consider joining the Academy’s Key Contacts Program, which pairs AAFP members with congressional leadership, members of Congress who sit on key committees with jurisdiction on health care issues and elected officials who support family physicians and our legislative and policy priorities.
Additionally, getting involved in FamMedPAC helps ensure that family medicine has strong support in congressional deliberations when crucial policy decisions are made.
Former House Speaker Tip O’Neil once said, “All politics is local.” The Academy can help you learn where your state stands on emerging issues, how to access state advocacy resources and how to get involved with your local AAFP chapter.
The Academy also has several member interest groups, which give members a voice within our increasingly diverse organization. Moreover, you can get more involved in advocacy by applying to serve on one of the Academy’s eight commissions, which offers roughly 150 positions that influence the Academy’s work on issues related to education, advocacy, public health and more.
I’m proud of the meaningful results our advocacy is bringing in. I know that our patients and communities will reap the benefits for years to come. If you’re not already active, I invite you to join us in making the difference.
Tochi Iroku-Malize, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., is president of the AAFP.