Long before I started medical school, I planned to enter politics and campaign for public office. My favorite class in high school was AP Government. My favorite high school memory is Virginia Boys State. For me, participation in a republic government was the highest calling in society. I started college as a political science major with letters of recommendation from my U.S. senator and state delegate.
Fast forward ten years and the narrative has changed. I entered medical school and discovered a new interest in Urology. I am currently a second-year resident at The George Washington University. I still think about running for public office one day, but now I experience government and politics in a different way: I see direct consequences, good and bad, of current health policy. I have learned my position in medicine provides unique footing for government impact.
I have not proposed new legislation on Capitol Hill, but I have maintained an involvement in health policy. In medical school, I investigated the counseling and mental health resources for medical students at my school and published the results. Currently, I maintain an active web blog and have written about the United States Preventative Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) recommendation against PSA screening. The blogs have been featured on UrologyMatch.com and have drawn attention from the lead author of the USPSTF evidence review.
Social media has shown me clinical medicine and health policy are not mutually exclusive. I have met urologists who discuss advances in urology as much as they do the changing landscape of medicine. For every Tweet about a new cancer drug, I read another about the USPSTF recommendation or Graduate Medical Education funding.
As a urologist, I want to be the best for my patients. I believe the best urologists of my generation—the urologists who have the greatest impact in patient care—will cultivate multidimensional careers. I want to safely and effectively care for patients. My residency helps me with the first goal. I want to write, educate, and change the way people think about urology, medicine, and education. I am currently working toward the second goal with my blog and social media presence. I want to lead advances in urology. Attending the 8th Annual AUA/AACU Urology Joint Advocacy Conference will provide a platform for this third career goal.
If selected to attend the conference, I will use the experience to gain understanding and knowledge of health policy and legislation through the microcosm of a single question that represents my greatest urology policy concern: How can I and residents like me help the USPSTF Transparency and Accountability Act HR 5998 pass Congress? Attending the conference with a focus will allow deeper understanding of the health policy process than if I attended with a purely absorptive perspective. Moreover, a specific focus will help me identify the point where I can make the greatest impact.
The role of the 21st century physician is different than that of earlier generations. As the country moves toward a more nationalized health care strategy built on cost-cutting measures, the point of attack for patient advocacy broadens. Urologists must advocate for their patients on a national level as much as they do in the clinics and wards. If we are absent at the table with lawmakers, how can we be sure our patients will not be left behind in the rapid evolution of American health care?
Ensuring patient autonomy and resources begins outside the exam room.