Political skills needed to protect responsible practice of medicine

LETTER — Posted April 25, 2005

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I was able to participate for the first time in the AMA's National Advocacy Conference programs during March. Being able to meet fellow AMA Foundation Leadership Award recipients and hear their stories was nothing short of inspirational. The travails of postgraduate training and wrestling nontherapeutic issues of countertransference too often lead residents to feel that their humanity is being eroded.

On the surface, it would seem that the political activism and lobbying that followed lay in direct opposition to the commitment embodied by the Leadership Award and Pride in the Profession awardees. What I learned, however, is that without political literacy, the responsible practice of medicine and patients' access to care are jeopardized as the future of medicine is being shaped ever more by attorneys and third-party payers. If we are to uphold the integrity of our profession and remain advocates for patients, this activism is essential.

My time in D.C. is an existential rebut to those who regard the AMA as a "union of doctors " with all its implicit negative connotations. My experience afforded me renewed faith in the mission of organized medicine and affirmed the spirit of service imbrued in the work of good doctors. Our paucity of numbers may make a Million Doctor March infeasible, but it is my hope that the effervescence of those in attendance may inspire an ever- stronger voice to present themselves at future lobby days, advocating for patients and promoting public health.

Michelle Nichols, MD, St. Louis

Editor's note: Dr. Nichols is a resident at Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/04/25/edlt0425.htm.

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