Third-year medical student Leanne Lawwell is no stranger to primary care advocacy. She has been a champion for family medicine since the beginning. From the start of medical school Lawwell has been interested in local and national health care issues related to primary care.
“As health policy is receiving so much attention at the national and state levels, now is an extremely important time for our voices to be heard,” Lawwell said. “I believe that talking with our elected officials about how health policy affects primary care physicians is necessary in order to ensure that our future patients will have access to the best health care that we can offer them.”
Because of her dedication to the advancement of family medicine, Lawwell was the most recent recipient of the AAFP Foundation’s James G. Jones, MD Student Scholarship award to attend the Family Medicine Congressional Conference May 9-11, 2011 in Washington DC.
The purpose of the conference is to educate participants about family medicine’s legislative priority issues and how to effectively lobby. Participants are then given an opportunity to put those skills to use during visits with federal legislators and their staffs.
Upon return from the Conference, Lawwell has the following to say about the trip:
Which session was most beneficial and why?
I found the breakout session on Evidence for New Models and Centrality of Primary Care and the Primary Care Training Panel to be most beneficial because both of these sessions presented evidence that clearly illustrated the value of family physicians and the importance of increasing the primary care work force. Although I was aware that the United States is facing a shortage of primary care physicians, it was very informative to see data from the Graham Center and the COGME Report. Attending these sessions provided me with evidence-based information regarding family doctor-to-patient ratios, the recommended and actual percentages of primary care physicians in the work force, the cost effectiveness of primary care, the allocation of GME funding, and the percentage of medical students choosing to go into primary care fields. It was particularly interesting to learn that there is a direct correlation between the primary care to specialist income ratio and the percentage of medical students choosing primary care residencies. As a medical student, I found that the information I learned during these sessions was extremely helpful in preparing for the visits with my legislators. By incorporating data from these sessions into my conversations with them, I believe I was able to more effectively communicate the value of family physicians and the importance of supporting legislation aimed at increasing the primary care workforce.
How will you use the information learned at the Conference?
As a medical student going into family medicine, I plan to use the information I learned during the Congressional Conference to continue to advocate for family physicians at both a state and national level. After attending the conference, I feel much better prepared to effectively communicate the value of family physicians to my legislators. I plan to attend my state chapter’s advocacy day again next year and to use the knowledge I acquired during the Congressional Conference to encourage my elected officials to support legislation that increases reimbursement for primary care services, funding for primary care training, and allocation of GME funding to community-based primary care residency programs. I also hope to have the opportunity to follow-up on the meetings during the Congressional Conference by meeting with some of my national officials stateside. As an active member of the Family Medicine Interest Group at my medical school, I would also like to use my experience at the conference to encourage other medical students at my school to advocate for family medicine. I have talked with the staff of my state chapter about organizing a state advocacy day specifically for medical students and I am planning to work to arrange that next fall after the new academic year begins. Finally, I hope to attend the Congressional Conference again next year and I will encourage other medical students from my state who are interested in family medicine to attend as well.
Any other comments about your experience?
I would like to thank the Board of Trustees of American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation for allowing me the opportunity to attend the Congressional Conference as a James G. Jones Student Scholarship Recipient. I sincerely appreciated having the chance to acquire a better understanding of the important legislative issues affecting family physicians, especially payment reform, increasing the primary care workforce, and allocation of GME funding to community-based residency programs. The information I learned during the conference was very helpful in preparing me to talk with my elected officials in Washington D.C. and I plan to continue to use this information to advocate for family medicine in the future.