Resurgens Orthopaedics is a large single-specialty orthopaedic practice in the metropolitan Atlanta area. We see engaging in political advocacy for the benefit of patients and the physicians who care for them as part of our mission. For many years, Resurgens has hosted in-district meetings with elected officials, even providing tours of our facilities and surgery centers. More recently, Resurgens physicians began travelling to Washington, D.C., to experience political advocacy at the next level.
The group includes physicians who come every year as well as those who have never met a member of Congress. This diversity of experience generates a fresh and comfortable dynamic. Typically, about 12 of the practice’s 93 physicians make the trip, and participants uniformly return enthusiastic and encourage others to join the trip the following year.
A role for advocacy
A trip to Washington is important in helping physicians understand the role that orthopaedic surgeons can play in political advocacy. Resurgens’ goal is to increase enthusiasm among our physicians for knowing their Congressional representatives on a more personal level and for serving as their resource on issues that affect orthopaedic practices and patients.
Visiting the Capitol, the heart of the American legislative effort, is a great stimulant for that process. Julia Williams, senior manager, government relations, in the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) office of government relations (OGR), accompanied our group and provided continuity with AAOS legislative and regulatory efforts. Resurgens’ lobbyists Travis Lindley and Milla Jones also accompanied the group.
For this year’s trip, the following specific issues were selected as focus topics:
- in-office ancillary exemption for physician-owned ancillary services
- the proposed new rule requiring certification for fitting of durable medical equipment
- the issues with qualifying for meaningful use
- an update on repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula
On the first night, we hosted a dinner for two Senators and two Representatives, including Georgia Congressman Tom Price, MD. This provided the opportunity for physicians to meet members of Congress in a casual setting and to develop a good rapport with them. By inviting members from both parties, we also heard a polite debate on how to pay for SGR reform.
After breakfast with another representative, we ascended Capitol Hill to conduct visits in the Congressional offices, seeing six more representatives and three senators. Two of these meetings were held over lunch to maximize efficiency and provide a different venue. We also visited the AAOS office of government relations and discussed advocacy with Ms. Williams and OGR Director Graham Newson. This helped physicians understand the vital role that the Academy plays in advocating for the issues affecting orthopaedic patients and the profession.
Beyond state borders
Every state, Georgia included, has two senators; however, Resurgens physicians met with five senators during our visit. The relationships that Resurgens physicians have with elected leaders took decades to develop; along the way we have nurtured relationships with members of Congress from outside our own state. Not only do our efforts cover all 14 Georgia representatives and both senators, but we also reach out to those in other states who support the issues facing orthopaedic patients.
All orthopaedic surgeons should know who their representative and both their senators are and make a concerted effort to reach out to these individuals. Steady effort at developing ties to members of Congress will result in long-standing access to those who make the laws that govern our nation. I believe that a program such as this can be the core of a solid advocacy effort that orthopaedic practices across the United States can develop.
Government leaders often listen to physicians whom they trust and have known prior to whatever current crisis drives physicians to call on their congressional representatives. The best way to start is to get involved now. The AAOS is able to provide resources to help fellows learn how and what to discuss with members of Congress.
Douglas W. Lundy, MD, MBA, is co-president of Resurgens Orthopaedics and a member of the AAOS Now editorial board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org