Massachusetts Medical Society: Why Advocacy Offers a Powerful Physician Community

Why Advocacy Offers a Powerful Physician Community

By Brendan Abel, JD, MMS Legislative Counsel
Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak
Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (shown at the signing of the ACCESS bill), and Dr. David R. Kattan were among physicians who testified for broad access to contraception.

For many physicians, advocacy represents a dual solution to the loss of traditional physician communities. Advocacy is both a new means of building supportive networks with peers, and a way to influence the evolution of the practice of medicine in ways that can re-establish community.

Advocacy presents an opportunity to engage with physician colleagues outside the clinical setting, and to bond over shared experiences and common goals. A goal might be promoting telemedicine, working toward a healthier environment, ensuring patients’ access to contraception, or any one of the other health-related issues that merit legislative action.

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David R. Kattan, MD

David R. Kattan, MD, director of family planning at Baystate Medical Center and president of the MMS Hampden District, became involved in a legislative initiative to guarantee access to contraception — an issue of particular importance given developments in Washington, DC. Dr. Kattan engaged with MMS government relations staff and other stakeholders to raise awareness and testify on Beacon Hill.

“Advocacy is a way to network and find allies for issues you care deeply about,” he said. “What I was thrilled about … is that there are physicians that I didn’t know at all that I can now work with on causes that may come up in the future. Advocacy is a way to meet others who feel the same way you do and want to work together toward a solution.”

McKinley Glover, MD, MHS, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and now vice speaker of the MMS House of Delegates, who has been active in the Massachusetts delegation to the AMA, also speaks to the social benefits of advocacy: “The AMA meeting provides an immense opportunity to develop friendships and relationships with colleagues and learn from each other,” he told Vital Signs .

Advocacy as a route to friendship is a recurring theme among physicians. “I gain inspiration, and even a little hope, from this advocacy work and the personal and professional relationships it has led to,” wrote James M. Recht, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, and an environmental and social justice activist, in the Summer 2018 issue of Vital Signs.

Through community building and shaping health care delivery, physicians’ advocacy appears to be protective against burnout. Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, told Freakonomics Radio in April: “I feel like I would have totally burned out on my medical-practice work if I were only in the trenches and not able to lift my head up and see what’s really going on.”

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