One of the charges of the Advocacy Resource Committee (ARC) is to develop educational materials “for those responsible” for advocating on legislative issues. The ARC believes it is the responsibility of every AAOS member to be involved in advocacy. If you and I do not fight for our patients and our practices, who will? Advocacy can be daunting, but with the right tools, every orthopaedic surgeon—including you—can be an effective advocate.
The AAOS Issues Guide
To be a successful advocate and effectively communicate your message, you need a thorough understanding of the issues. As a fellow orthopaedic surgeon, I understand how difficult it may be to invest the time necessary to thoroughly examine all of AAOS’ priority issues. Don’t let this deter you from getting involved.
Communicating the issues
Although the AAOS Issues Guide contains seven priority topics, contain your discussions with legislators to only two or three at a time. Congressional meetings usually last only 10 to 15 minutes, which does not allow enough time to detail every issue of importance. When selecting issues, you should consider what committees and caucuses your Congressional representative is on, as well as the demographics and important industries in your district. This will help you determine what issues are important to your legislator and what policies he or she may support.
Once the issue(s) have been decided, the AAOS Issues Guide can help you develop several key talking points—why the issue(s) is important to you and why your Congressional representative should share the same concern. When possible, detail a personal experience to bolster your message.
Determining a member’s position
After communicating your message, encourage your Congress-ional representative to ask questions. The AAOS Issues Guide will help you answer many of those questions. If you do not know the answer, tell your legislator that a member of the AAOS staff will follow up with the answer. Then, relay the question to the AAOS office of government relations.
At the end of your meeting, use the “Congressional Ask” section in the AAOS Issues Guide to request your member’s position(s) on the issue(s) you’ve raised. If the legislator is committed to your issue(s), thank him or her for listening. If the legislator states that he or she will think about your comments, say thank you, offer your AAOS Issues Guide as a resource, and follow up with a thank-you letter and another request to take a position. If your legislator is opposed to an issue(s), say thanks for the time, offer your AAOS Issues Guide as a resource, and follow up with a thank-you letter and a request to reconsider the issue.
Finally, always remember to be polite, but don’t be intimidated by members of Congress. They represent you and should appreciate your expertise and be respectful of your input.
The AAOS Issues Guide can be downloaded from the government relations section of the AAOS website (www.aaos.org/dc). Hard copies can also be delivered to your home or office. For more information, contact Madeleine Lovette in the AAOS office of government relations at email@example.com
John T. Gill, MD, chairs the AAOS Advocacy Resource Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org