As a first-year pediatric resident at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, I’m training to become a “tiny human doctor”. But don’t let the word “tiny” fool you. A pediatrician’s job is no small task - it comes with big responsibility.
Pediatricians not only provide medical care for patients from birth up to age 18, (and sometimes even a few years older), but we also have the unique opportunity to educate families and advocate for those who are unable to do so themselves.
Fueled by advocacy
Advocacy, in particular, was one of the first things that compelled me to pursue pediatrics. At the start of my residency, I could not wait to meet with other advocates and local leaders to make a difference. However, I had no idea where to start.
Then, I received an email about an opportunity to apply for an advocacy training scholarship from the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP). A few weeks later, I was notified that I was selected as one of seven recipients in Florida to participate in the 2022 Advocacy Conference from March 20-22.
Three inspiring days
Held virtually this year, the conference included two full days of educational workshops; smaller training sessions; and guest speakers, including First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health; Admiral Rachel Levine, MD, FAAP; and Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) Associate Administrator Michael Warren, MD, MPH, FAAP.
Day three included meetings with our local legislators and three pediatric residents from Broward County, myself included. We enjoyed a meeting with the office of Representative Lois Frankel. Then, a larger group of pediatric residents from Florida met with the offices of Senator Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio.
Put to the test
This third day was where my advocacy skills were put to the test. We were given information for two bills that had just been introduced to Congress:
- The Supporting Children’s Mental Health Care Access Act (H.R. 7076/S. 3864), which supports access to mental health resources/telehealth in pediatric primary care practices.
- The Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 1803/S. 3628), which provides direct funding to schools for a variety of mental health promotion and suicide prevention purposes.
Our task was to discuss these bills with our local legislative leaders and ask for support as co-sponsors. The results were rewarding. We received positive bi-partisan feedback and enjoyed the opportunity to educate our congressional leaders on the mental health crisis that has escalated from the COVID-19 pandemic. These bills affect every one of my colleagues on an almost daily basis.
Bitten by the bug!
The 2022 Advocacy Conference experience empowered my advocacy ambitions and has ignited passionate optimism in what I will provide for my patients in the future. The education I received at the conference and the connections made were invaluable. I’ve been officially bitten by the advocacy bug!