As physicians, you’re trained to be objective and apolitical. As a scientist, I too was trained to abide by the inherent values of scientific objectivity. Like many of you, I was hesitant to join the sphere of advocacy. But I found my research increasingly and adversely impacted by politicians and bureaucrats enacting policies and regulations that they knew nothing about. At the tender age of 40, I returned to school and earned a master’s degree in public policy – because I felt compelled to have my reality and my voice heard by elected officials and policy makers.
I am excited to report that last week I returned to Olympia and met with several legislators and former colleagues including Speaker Frank Chopp to discuss what is important to you and me regarding all aspects of health care.
Through these conversations we are identifying specific ways our King County Medical Society physicians can most effectively advocate for health care improvements impacting patients, communities and physicians. But I must stress the urgent need for far more advocacy by existing physicians across disciplines.
King County Medical Society CEO Nancy Belcher lobbies for health care legislation during a meeting with physicians and Senator David Frockt (D-Seattle) in Olympia
The Society has been working behind the scenes on one particular piece of legislation I am not at liberty to broadly discuss at this time. It would make some profound changes in health care in Washington State. The work is purely altruistic, it is focused, and if enacted would positively impact people’s lives.
I felt like we were gaining momentum, but then it all came to an abrupt halt. Unfortunately, one of the physicians providing expert information started to fear that he would lose his job because of his involvement. While his concerns could have been adeptly handled, his fear was real. If only he had understood the power of the King County Medical Society.
The King County Medical Society provides a place for physicians to advocate for health care improvements without the fear of retaliation in a concentrated way that makes great use of your limited time. As a member of the Society you are liberated to work to enact change at a macro or micro level. We can also provide cover and even anonymity. Think of us as Switzerland in complex diplomacy.
As physicians you are the experts that policy makers rely on; you are on the front lines of how policy impacts patients. While it may be easier to tell yourselves that these issues belong in the sphere of politics and that physicians should simply take care of their patients, I have to push back and state unequivocally that in a political vacuum, one that lacks real information, insight and opinion, policies WILL still be created.
Unfortunately, these may be policies that can adversely affect you and your patients. Once instituted, they are difficult to overturn. Therefore, I invite you to come to the front with us and create solid, thoughtful, appropriate policies.
There are a number of ways you can participate:
- Write policy statements, legislation and resolutions by becoming a delegate for the King County Medical Society.
- Sign-up to become a member of one of our committees.
- Speak out in the media by participating in interviews, write opinion/editorial pieces. Participate in a KCMS podcast. I encourage you to reach out to our Director of Communications and Marketing, Josh Kerns, to learn about all of the opportunities. He has been extremely effective at increasing our members’ visibility via media appearances, op/ed placement and speaking engagements.
- Engage in local politics and testify to state and national lawmakers through our advocacy work.
- Encourage your friends and colleagues to become members of the King County Medical Society so that we can grow and increase our impact.
“Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale. Medicine, as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution: the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution. The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and social problems fall to a large extent within their jurisdiction.” Dr. Rudolf Virchow
We are grateful for your selfless dedication to providing much needed health care and we are working tirelessly each day to improve the lives of our members, their patients and our communities. It is a pleasure and honor serving you.
Nancy Belcher, Ph.D. – CEO/King County Medical Society