Vivian Pham, MD - UC San Francisco
Fiyinfoluwa Ani, MD - UC Irvine
Chip Snyders, Jr., MD, LT, MC, USN - Naval Medical Center San Diego
Over the past few years, CSA leaders have made a concerted effort to focus on political advocacy in the State Capitol to help educate policymakers, the media, and the public about the importance of physician-led anesthesia care and its effects on patient safety.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, the CSA has been partnering with CSA’s District Directors to host several grassroots advocacy workshops across California to teach CSA members how to effectively advocate on behalf of our specialty and our patients. Understanding that CSA’s residents are the future of our society, the CSA hosted its first resident advocacy workshop in Sacramento, attended by 21 residents representing each of California’s 12 residency programs.
Our morning began with an inspiring discussion with CSA President Karen Sibert, MD, FASA, LPAD Chair Jeff Poage, MD, and CMA Senior Vice President for Government Relations Janus Norman about practice management, CSA’s recent legislative victories, and how to become leaders in our specialty.
In residency training, we spend a lot of time learning how to intubate and manage challenging patients in the operating room so that we’re ready to take care of patients once we graduate, but the topic of practice management is barely touched upon, if at all.
Specifically, we discussed the implementation of Assembly Bill 72, legislation intended to address the issue of out-of-network billing. While it wasn’t a perfect solution, our CSA leaders and lobbying professionals continue to work tirelessly on this issue and continue to work tirelessly advocating for fair and adequate insurance networks so that patients have access to affordable in-network care.
As the afternoon approached, a storm blanketed downtown Sacramento with hail that appeared as snow—a rare sight in the region—as we quickly made our way to the nearby Capitol building. There, we met directly with state lawmakers, including Senators Richard Pan, MD, Chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and Ed Hernandez, OD. We also met with Assemblymembers Catharine Baker and Jim Wood, DDS, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. Each of these individuals took some time out of their brimming schedules to give us insight into their motivations for serving in government and discussed the key issues of interest to us as physicians.
We were then lead by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide along a winding journey through the building's halls and chambers, recounting an abbreviated history of California's government in the process. The primary attractions were Assembly and Senate Chambers, both appearing frozen in time, save for a few 21st-century adaptations. The tour concluded on the floor of the Assembly chamber, where we took group photos and had an informal discussion with Assemblymember Wood.
For many of us who had never visited the Capitol, this part of the day provided us with a very intimate view of the Legislature. We were able to peer beyond the Capitol's grandeur and interact with a group of intelligent, passionate, and personable individuals working to enact helpful policies. It was encouraging to learn that thanks to the work of CSA leaders and lobbying team, the representatives we met understood the unique difficulties faced by physician anesthesiologists.
While many in our generation think negatively of lobbyists, politicians, and the work they do, this workshop demonstrated the opposite. A lot of them are well-intentioned professionals who are passionate about public policy and making a difference in the lives of Californians—but they are not physicians. As the Legislature focuses on issues such as expanding access to health care and addressing the opioid epidemic, we have an opportunity as subject matter experts to help shape these policies, even as residents—and that is the message we hope to take back to our residency programs.
As residents, our training is understandably focused on skills necessary to be competent physician anesthesiologists. But that doesn’t mean that learning at an early stage in our career about practice management, public policy, and its implications on our profession aren’t equally important, and we’re thankful that our CSA leaders understand that.
We have an opportunity, now and throughout our career as physicians, to serve our patients not only in the operating room but in the public policy arena. If you are a resident interested in a leadership role, please take the first step and get involved. Thankfully, the CSA has developed, and funds, several opportunities for us to get involved, including:
You can also serve on a CSA committee, including the Resident Representation Committee, which has made tremendous progress over the past year in expanding opportunities for resident engagement, including the creation of a new resident Facebook page and Instagram account. They are also looking to expand mentorship opportunities to connect residents with CSA leaders, so they can ask them questions on any topic, whether it be practice management, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, financial planning, looking for a job, or anything else.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved, we encourage you to reach out to Matt Peralta in the CSA office, who works closely with CSA’s resident leaders and the Resident Representation Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, we’d like to thank Annie Lee, MD, who came up with the idea of having a resident advocacy workshop, Drs. Poage and Sibert for leading the morning discussion, and CSA’s lobbying and public affairs professionals Bryce Docherty, Vanesa Cajina, Lisa Yarbrough, and Alison MacLeod for planning the day’s events and introducing us to the importance of political advocacy. It was a day that will benefit our practice and careers for many years to come.