For the past two years, I have served as your AAPM&R Delegate to the American Medical Association (AMA) Resident and Fellow Section (RFS). Additionally, I was elected by other RFS members to serve as a voting sectional delegate to the AMA House of Delegates for 2022. I would like to thank the PHiT Council for giving me this opportunity to talk about my role and the work that the AAPM&R delegation has done over the past two years.
First, the AAPM&R AMA-RFS Delegate is a two-year position that any AAPM&R resident member may apply for in their first or second year of residency. In addition to attending two national meetings each year, delegates work with three other PM&R physicians in reviewing proposed AMA resolutions as well as crafting and introducing our own resolutions to the AMA. This is a very involved volunteer and leadership commitment that is both challenging and rewarding.
The first year of my tenure was 2021 and unfortunately this was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I attended both the annual and interim meetings and had to virtually learn the ropes of the resolution review and writing processes in their entirety. Although I have been involved in organized medicine as a medical student, nothing prepared me for how to tackle the journey I was about to embark on. Organized medicine was never designed to be a virtual endeavor and the hours spent in a front of a computer screen was frustrating to say the least.
Thankfully in 2022, in-person meetings resumed. It was both humbling and an honor to see so many medical students, residents/fellows and physicians hailing from all over the country and across all specialties, come together in-person to discuss and vote on policies that will affect the future of medicine.
For those unfamiliar, the AMA House of Delegates is comprised of representatives from multiple states and medical specialties societies. We introduce, provide testimonies, vote, and adopt policies on many healthcare-related topics. Based on their outcomes, the AMA will spend time, resources, and effort to study or advocate for those policies at various national, organizational and governmental levels.
It is so important that our specialty be represented at the AMA! Currently, we are the only PM&R specialty-specific society represented in the AMA House of Delegates. Our presence there ensures that physiatry has a voice in the largest American medical organization. As physiatrists, we bring a unique perspective to the table. At the same time, we benefit from the interactions with other specialties since our colleagues keep us updated on the many current issues that affect patient health and physician practice. I’ve learned to connect hot- button issues such as prior authorization, gun violence, scope of practice, physician payments, access to healthcare, reproductive health and equity and inclusion to issues directly or indirectly affecting rehabilitation medicine.
I am very proud to have been a part of the commendable work that our AAPM&R Delegation undertook over the past two years across four national meetings. The AAPM&R Delegation has worked on, introduced or co-authored several resolutions that addressed issues such as illegal firearms violence, Long COVID research and funding, prior authorization red tape, and more. These resolutions have received overwhelming support and were ultimately adopted as official AMA policies. We have also provided countless testimonies on other resolutions that pertain to our field of expertise.
As Physiatrists-in-Training, many of us seek relevance and value in organized medicine. Many of us "grow up" in an era of corporate medicine, with little to no experience with what it means to be in independent practice. We train in environments where often the practice of medicine is dictated/influenced by forces outside of medicine. There is a sense of helplessness and resignation in the midst of governmental regulations, insurance red tape and encroachments. For me personally, I see these points as poignant reasons for participation in organized medicine, by joining with other physicians in advocating for patients and our profession.
Organized medicine gives us a collective voice to make change, even though changes can be very slow at times. It gives us a seat at the table so that our voice can be heard when there may be so many opposing forces. Being in organized medicine is educational as we learn how to be leaders of our field and engage with the legislative process and advocacy. These are not often taught in medical school but are so important for the protection and advancement of our profession. Finally, the networking in organized medicine is excellent as it allows me to engage with people not only in PM&R but also from across other specialties/states. I’ve learned so much. Working in PM&R can feel like being in our own little world at times, so it is eye-opening to learn and talk about issues outside of rehab medicine.
I strongly encourage Physiatrists-in-Training to get involved in organized medicine at the local, state and national levels. We need YOU! In addition to the AAPM&R position, you can seek involvement in local and state medical societies. The lessons I have learned about advocacy and the connections I’ve built will be valuable for my career as a physiatrist. I am very grateful for my program director Dr. Michael Andary who has generously given me the gift of time and the support I needed to pursue this national leadership role. After residency, I will be pursuing a one-year interventional spine fellowship at the University of Michigan. I hope to continue getting involved and staying active in organized medicine throughout my career.