The new Congress is sworn in and already jumping into legislative business. With 97 freshman members now in office, the Academy can use every bit of help to build lasting, productive relationships quickly.
Now is the opportune time to begin cultivating relationships with these new lawmakers. Here is a brief guide on how to engage effectively with the new Congress.
Early career ophthalmologists meet with Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., right, during Congressional Advocacy Day at Mid-Year Forum 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Find Your Legislator
Use the Academy’s legislator search tool to look up your lawmakers and get their office phones numbers, office addresses and social media handles.
Schedule a Meeting
Reach out to the newly hired staff in your congressional district. They’re getting up to speed on many issues and you can serve as an important resource for healthcare-related topics. Request a meeting to bring them up to speed on our profession’s issues. The Academy has created talking points to assist your discussion. You can also invite the new lawmaker to tour your practice and learn more about ophthalmology from a boots-on-the-ground perspective.
Ready to schedule a meeting with your legislator locally? Sign up. If you’ve already met with your legislator, be sure to report back to the Academy with feedback about the meeting.
Review the congressional calendars for both chambers (House and Senate) and identify their various recess periods. Do this well in advance, as many groups and individuals target these times when lawmakers return home for meetings with constituents. Make sure that you mention that you treat patients that are also likely constituents of the legislator. This can help you secure a meeting by reaffirming your valuable perspective of their voters’ interests.
Find the Best Way to Reach Legislators
Connect with your lawmaker through a variety of communications. When new legislators take office, they build their team from the top down, beginning with a chief of staff and then moving to other support positions. It can be months before they’re fully staffed. During this period, there’s a high likelihood that constituent emails, phone calls and grassroots requests fall through the cracks.
Make your message heard by using a variety of communications methods to ensure you connect with policy staff. The Academy makes this easy for you to do through our online advocacy tool, which allows you to contact your lawmaker via email and Twitter. For your convenience, the Academy has drafted an introductory email template to send to your legislators.
Learn About Your New Lawmaker
Most new legislators use their first few months in office to reiterate for constituents their positions on key issues. Follow your lawmaker’s stances on issues impacting you and your community and then engage with them to share your views. The Academy’s staff are happy to assist you with cultivating this information.
Be a Resource
You’re a physician and an ophthalmologist. It would take years for someone outside our profession to fully understand what you go through on a day-to-day basis in caring for your patients. That’s why you’re uniquely qualified to serve as a valued resource on health care. When interacting with new offices, offer to serve in that role. Remember to reiterate how the U.S. health care system impacts your patients and your practice. In doing so, you’ll provide great value to policymakers and their staff.
Take it one step further and sign up to be a congressional advocate for your new lawmaker. The Academy will assist you in engaging with your lawmakers year-round about issues impacting you and your patients.
Establishing a relationship with your legislator is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s best to start early before offices become overwhelmed with other work and consistently make contact about policy concerns.
For new lawmaker’s offices, remember that many won’t have their staff fully up and running well into 2019. By the time they’re finally at full strength, you’ll already be a known resource and expert, enabling you to play a key role in our profession’s advocacy.
Interested in more advocacy resources? Visit our Advocacy Resources Center for more tips, toolkits and talking points to make your advocacy efforts a success.
Academy staff is always an available resource to you. For more information about advocacy, questions or concerns, contact Megan Tweed, the Academy's grassroots coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.