by Regina Heyl DePietro
I sat in the office of a staffer to a Manhattan congressman and waited for the right moment to tell my story about my mother’s experience with advanced directives. Dr. Celine Goetz, a hospitalist from Mount Sinai, and I had practiced our talk in a large atrium a floor below. Our morning meeting led by SHM had prepped us on three points:
1. Address Medicare’s onerous three-day rule
2. Push for doctor funding and reimbursement in preparing advanced directives
3. Discuss the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR)
Dr. Goetz had taken me under her wing when she learned I was from New York. She had decided that this day was going to be as memorable for me as her first day advocating on the Hill when she was in medical school. Worried that I would fumble, I told her that I was not going to speak, but she would not let that happen.
It was my turn. Dr. Goetz had just finished explaining the details of advanced directives. I then told my story about being grateful my mother’s primary care doctor had prioritized writing an advanced directive during an outpatient appointment. When I finished the story I said, “It truly is preventative medicine at its finest.” I knew this was a policy buzzword. The staffer lit up and responded, “You should have started with that. That will make people listen.”
I was no longer nervous or worried to go into our next three lobby meetings. Even though I never have treated my own patients, I have something to contribute to policy. Everyone has something to contribute to healthcare policy because everyone has touched the healthcare system and dealt with it.
By the end of our day, at our last meeting with a New York State Senator’s staffer, I even brought up an issue I care most passionately about after we had discussed our three points given by SHM: save Graduate Medical Education. In fact, I had been to advocacy workshops at other conferences on how to make this issue a legislative priority, but I never had the courage to make it happen (to be honest, I almost didn’t go get on the bus for Hospitalists on the Hill).
As I sat on the Amtrak train headed back to New York that night, I tweeted, “Had one of the most formative experiences of my life today. Can’t wait to advocate again. #HospitalistsOnTheHill #HospMed15 @SHMLive.” While I had been a finalist in the RIV presentations, and learned the ins and outs of Twitter to be an active live Tweeter, being involved with Hospitalists on the Hill provided me with something larger: that I am, and will continue to be, an active participant in the policy of my profession.
The point is that the first step is getting on the bus.
Postscript: Since writing this blog post, SGR has been repealed by the Senate in an overwhelming majority. Although my day on The Hill had little to do with this result, I am happy to count myself a participant in the larger discussion.
Regina Heyl DePietro is a second-year medical student at SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine. She is interested in combining her interests in quality of care, business management, and the patient experience. Though she has yet to complete clinical rotations, she is leaning towards Internal Medicine. When not studying, she can be found at her Crossfit gym practicing her Olympic weightlifting.