Internists raise College profile at this year's Leadership Day
By Rhonda Poe
WASHINGTON—On May 25 and 26, 135 internists from 39 states traveled to the nation's capital for the College's first Leadership Day since the ACP-ASIM merger. The record number of delegates talked with legislators about how to advance ACP-ASIM's legislative public-policy agenda and helped raise the College's visibility in policy-making circles at both the national and regional level.
The event began with presentations that included an in-depth briefing on issues that ACP-ASIM has identified as the most challenging to the quality of health care in the United States. During an afternoon breakout session, consultants played the roles of fictitious senators and aides to demonstrate common situations that physicians might encounter in their meetings with legislators.
The next day, the internists took that knowledge to Capitol Hill. College President Whitney W. Addington, FACP, and Lawrence Lehrner, FACP, the College's Transitional Governor for the Nevada Chapter, met with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), minority whip. While Drs. Addington and Lehrner gave an overview of ACP-ASIM's policy agenda, Dr. Addington took the opportunity to stress his belief that universal health coverage is the single most important public health issue before the nation.
Sen. Reid advised Drs. Addington and Lehrner on how to generate support for the College's positions. He said that besides talking to the Republicans, College leaders should consider supporting incremental reforms that will keep the legislative process moving.
West Virginia delegates Rashida A. Khakoo, FACP, Governor-elect for the College's West Virginia Chapter, and John D. Holloway, FACP, received something of a surprise when they arrived at the office of Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.). Expecting to see the senator in his office, the physicians were instead escorted to the Russell Senate Building, where Medicare reform hearings were in session. Sen. Rockefeller excused himself from the hearings to meet with the physicians in the hall, where he discussed the College's public-policy agenda. During the ensuing conversation, Drs. Khakoo and Holloway gave the senator specific examples of how national health care policy is affecting his constituents.
The Connecticut delegation of Robert M. McLean, FACP, and Paul A. Dolinsky, ACP-ASIM Member, met with a number of representatives in the course of a very busy day. First, they talked with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) about ACP-ASIM's stand on access to care, patients' rights and Medicare. Rep. DeLauro intimated that many House Democrats are pushing for more comprehensive protection for physicians and their patients than is currently being considered in the House.
Rep. DeLauro also talked about gun-control legislation. Despite significant pressure from her constituents, many of whom seek to protect their jobs with gun manufacturers, Rep. DeLauro said that she firmly supports gun control as a public health issue, a position that the College supports.
The internists also received encouraging news at the office of Sen. Joseph Leiberman (D-Conn.). Staff members said that they share the College's concern for universal coverage and told the delegates that they are concerned about changes being made to patient protection legislation. They said that they were fighting for the right to review changes before the bill was brought before the Senate for a vote.
One staff member said he thought that "reform is getting bogged down" and encouraged ACP-ASIM to "get the message out." He echoed a sentiment that many delegates heard from their representatives throughout the day: ACP-ASIM's consistent advocacy for patients' rights and willingness to provide expertise to legislators has increased the College's credibility on Capitol Hill.
Key Contact award
The Key Contact Program consists of more than 2,500 College members who regularly communicate with their legislators on health issues.
Dr. Honsinger was given the award for "exemplary grassroots" activities. He regularly wrote to his legislators, met with them to discuss issues important to internists and their patients, and volunteered for political campaigns in his home state. He also recruited other potential Key Contacts in New Mexico.
For more information on the Key Contact Program, call Jennifer Jenkins at 800-338-2746.
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