The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada CanMEDS Physician Competency Framework has called for physicians to “responsibly use their expertise and influence to advance the health and well-being of individual patients, communities, and populations.”1 Many physicians support the idea of advocacy, but rarely engage in it due to the challenges of time constraints, varying understanding of their role as activists for social, economic, educational and political change, and distinctions made between the roles and responsibilities of individual physicians versus that of the medical profession as a whole. The American Medical Association’s (AMA) Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine’s Contract with Humanity further asserts that physicians can “advocate for social, economic, educational, and political changes that ameliorate suffering and contribute to human well-being.”1
Many medical students enter training with a commitment to advocacy illustrated in their community service, work in clinics, and interests in training in public health, policy, and/or fields related to social change. However, advocacy activities and empathy often decrease as medical students enter the clinical aspects of their training. This may be due to busier schedules, or it is possible that initial self-interest for acceptance to medical school or early exposure to patient care rather than a true social commitment explained their earlier efforts. Physicians in public health may limit their advocacy to support of change in individual behavior, such as smoking cessation, immunizations, cancer screening, or seat belt use, rather than advocating for structural societal change. In addition, many physicians are politically conservative, and believe in providing direct patient care rather than engaging in social activism.1
Although advocacy is a key component of medical professionalism and has widespread acceptance as a professional obligation, it remains relatively marginalized within the profession because it is often undefined in scope, concept, and practice.2 Physician advocacy must be fostered and sustained in undergraduate and graduate medical education.2
At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to:
1) Describe the challenges of engaging physicians and trainees in advocacy coalitions
2) Compare and contrast strategies for engaging doctors and other advocates around health and other issues
3) Practice deploying coalition-building skills with physicians, trainees, and allies
4) Identify opportunities to work with physicians and trainees in coalition
1) Freeman, J. Advocacy by physicians for patients and for social change. Virtual Mentor. September 2014. Volume 16, Number 9: 722-725.
2) Earnest, MA, Wong, SL, Federico, SG. Perspective: Physician Advocacy: what is it and how do we do it? Academic Medicine. 85(1): 63-67, January 2010.