Report on the 2008 Leadership & Legislative Conference

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Report on the 2008 Leadership
& Legislative Conference

TAFP members learned how to advocate effectively for the specialty

A group of current and future TAFP leaders gathered in Austin Friday, Aug. 15 and Saturday, Aug. 16 to hone their leadership and legislative skills in preparation for the upcoming 2008 election cycle and 81st Texas Legislative Session.

The conference began Friday night with dinner and a discussion on the current state of health care policy by Kim Ross, a political jack-of-all-trades who has acted as a lobbyist, health policy analyst, grassroots specialist and media authority over the course of his career. Ross told the audience that family medicine has the opportunity to step up as the voice of medicine because of increasing emphasis on the value of primary care and the medical home.

“It is my personal opinion that primary care advocates should lead this debate,” Ross said. “Everyone is going to be looking at [family physicians], and when you do step up, you may incur some fire.”

Saturday’s lectures armed physicians with the tools to “fight the fire,” beginning by viewing the TAFP Advocacy in Action video, “Doctor’s Orders: A Survival Guide for Family Physicians.” The conference continued with Ross’ Lobbying 101 seminar. In this discussion, he emphasized that relationships are key, whether they are organic—built before the legislator earned his or her office—or homegrown—built over time through contributions of time or other resources. One of the most important lessons attendees learned was to stay within their expertise as physicians. Lobbying doesn’t mean having a comprehensive knowledge of fiscal impact. Rather, physicians can more effectively state their case by expressing what they know: How would this issue affect your patients and practice? The Academy is also available to provide resources, talking points and additional lobbying tips.

Alfred Gilchrist, CEO of the Colorado Medical Society and former TMA legislative director, continued the morning lectures by speaking on the “art of the possible.” He gave an account of the medical society’s work in Colorado to secure the nation’s first standardized contract legislation and protect Colorado liability reform. He again emphasized the physicians’ role in meeting with local legislators before the legislative session to obtain their commitment to medicine.

Two prominent media experts, Harvey Kronberg of the online political journal Quorum Report and Dave McNeely of the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism, gave their tips on interacting with the media. Kronberg advised attendees to think in 20-second “sound bites” and avoid medical jargon that could be misinterpreted after the interview. McNeely warned attendees not to “get in a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel,” stressing that relationships with the press can be powerful and beneficial with proper preparation and respect.

The final exercises of the day allowed physicians to lobby and attend a mock hearing at the Capitol. Split into four groups, attendees discussed graduate medical education, liability, Medicaid reform and managed care issues. Each group chose representatives to “lobby” the speakers, representing legislators and their staffs. From these mock situations, physicians learned to maintain their demeanor, even in challenging circumstances; make succinct points using facts and personal experience; and to not threaten, promise or negotiate on points of high tension.

At the hearing, physicians appeared before a panel of legislators, played by Gilchrist, TAFP lobbyist Marshall Kenderdine, TAFP CEO Tom Banning and former TMA lobbyist Connie Barron. One physician from each group appeared before a House committee to state their case. From this exercise, physicians again learned that effective testimony uses personal experience and facts to craft the family medicine message.

Attendees left the conference armed with tools to make a difference as advocates for the specialty. Two ways all TAFP members can become more active is by signing up for the Key Contacts program, which allows physicians to make use of existing relationships with legislators or volunteer to cultivate new relationships, and the Physician of the Day program, which brings a physician to the Capitol each day during the legislative sessions to staff the Capitol Health Clinic. For more information on Key Contacts, Physician of the Day, to view Doctor’s Orders advocacy video or to read more about TAFP’s advocacy efforts, visit the Advocacy section of the TAFP website,