1. Legislators want to talk to residents, too!
Attending the Mid-Year Forum, I knew I would learn a lot about advocacy, surgical scope issues and upcoming legislation that will affect our profession. But I assumed that legislators would really only want to hear from attendings. That was not the case! They want to speak with physicians in training and discuss the unique issues that we’re facing.
2. Legislative aides know a lot about health care.
I had originally hoped to meet with the entire slate of legislators from Ohio. When that wasn’t possible, I met with their staffers instead. I came away very impressed by how well they understood the current issues affecting physicians and patients at the national, state and local levels.
3. Our advocacy makes a difference.
Just days after our visit, Congress approved a $2 billion increase in funding to the National Institutes of Health, which includes $15 million for the Department of Defense Vision Research Program. I like to think that the more than 400 ophthalmologists attending Congressional Advocacy Day played a big part in this.
4. The Academy wants to inspire YOs to be leaders.
As part of the Advocacy Ambassador Program, I attended the L.E.A.P. Forward session, which covers leadership, engagement, advocacy and practice management. This was a great way to network with established leaders in our field, learn about running a solo or group practice and stay engaged in our communities through volunteer work. I met residents from Georgia, who are already playing a huge role in their state’s scope-of-practice battles by appearing on news outlets like NPR and meeting with their legislators.
5. Surgical scope battles are a state issue.
Surgical scope bills present an ongoing threat to safe surgery for our patients. The best way to help prevent passage of these bills is to become involved with your state society. These battles are extremely time-consuming and expensive to fight, and YOs can play a helpful role in fighting them.
6. Supporting the Academy’s advocacy efforts is easier than you think.
There are three ways to give:
- The Surgical Scope Fund helps the Academy work with state ophthalmology and medical societies to fight scope-of-practice battles and ensure safety and surgical standards.
- The OPHTHPAC Fund helps elect members of Congress who support issues critical to ophthalmology. The fund also helps ensure ophthalmology is part of the legislative process at the national level.
- Your State EyePAC helps support candidates for state legislatures.
All three are critical to protecting our patients and our practices.
7. Eye health is becoming a major focus of public health.
I was shocked to hear that refractive error is becoming the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. We can all get involved by volunteering at EyeCare America — a public service program of the Academy Foundation whose volunteers offer eye exams with no out-of-pocket cost to people age 65 and older.
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About the author: Jane T. Caty, MD, is an administrative chief resident at the University Hospitals Eye Institute at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Dr. Caty participated in the Mid-Year Forum 2017 as an Advocacy Ambassador Program participant sponsored by the Ohio Ophthalmological Society.