President's Column 10/20/05
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Moving the Needle on Preventive Medicine Residency Funding:
YOU Can Be the Difference!
Neal Kohatsu, MD, MPH, FACPM
October 20, 2005

Hopefully you have seen recent updates from the College on its efforts toward the critically important goal of assuring stable funding for preventive medicine residency programs. In this column, I’d like to provide you with my perspective on our progress and why I think, with your help, we have an unprecedented opportunity to be successful.

On September 27th, the day after the fall Board of Regents meeting, ACPM held an ACPM Advocacy Day. A number of board members, joined by other ACPM members, several preventive medicine residents, and ACPM staff, made visits to their individual representatives in the House and Senate.

Prior to walking the halls of Congress, we were all briefed by ACPM staff on how to effectively present our case on preventive medicine residency funding. In addition, we were armed with a concise background paper and a list of talking points. Almost without exception, congressional staff warmly received each ACPM delegation, with several showing substantial interest in our issues.

What became clear from my experience, and that of fellow Advocacy Day participants, was that the one-on-one meetings with congressional staff and members are absolutely essential to moving our agenda. Congressional staffers and members love to connect with their constituents. They also like to help their communities, especially voters in those villages, towns, and cities.

Advocacy is something that each ACPM member can do, and MUST do, if we are to achieve our goals. Each contact, each letter, and each phone call that you make to your congressional representatives is important. We have a superb team of ACPM staff members, led by Paul Bonta, Associate Director for Policy and Government Affairs, who have experience in advocacy for physician and health issues. ACPM’s expertise will help you achieve your greatest effectiveness. You do NOT need prior experience…you do NOT need to be a "politician.” You just need to present the facts and show your passion for the issues.

To foster the grassroots mobilization of ACPM members, the College will soon be utilizing the latest software technology to enable direct contact between ACPM members and their elected officials in Washington. If ACPM is to realize success it is ESSENTIAL that each and every ACPM member respond to and act on legislative alerts sent by the College.

We are seeing a number of very promising developments as a result of College efforts. ACPM has been working closely with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and others to secure introduction of legislation that would authorize an annual appropriation of $43 million to preventive medicine residency programs. While Sen. Harkin quickly moved to include the ACPM proposal in his broad health care initiative, the HELP America Act (S. 1074), he is now working with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness, to introduce a stand-alone bill that would focus solely on federal funding for preventive medicine residency programs and/or to piggy back the legislation on to a bipartisan biodefense measure moving through Congress. The College is pursuing a similar strategy on the House side. ACPM is carefully working with potential sponsors of the legislation to ensure that all preventive medicine programs—General Preventive Medicine/Public Health, Occupational Medicine and Aerospace Medicine—will benefit from the ACPM proposal.

In another sign of substantive progress in response to a targeted ACPM advocacy effort, Congress has directed the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a workforce study to determine what knowledge and skills are needed by public health physicians; what type of training program would prepare physicians for public health careers; how many training programs are needed to maintain an adequate public health physician workforce; and how these training programs should be funded. Congressional recognition that the public health physician workforce ought to be examined is a tremendous accomplishment for the specialty and an important stepping-stone for ACPM’s legislative strategy. In addition, both the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges have agreed to back ACPM’s initiative.

I want to thank Paul Bonta, Roslyn Johnson, Mike Barry and other ACPM staff who helped make ACPM’s Advocacy Day a great success and commend their tireless and unswerving efforts to achieve our goal. With our 2,000 members across the country, we can do this! Please commit to doing your part to advancing the College and the field of preventive medicine by supporting ACPM advocacy efforts in support of stable, adequate residency funding and other College legislative priorities.

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