Why Health Advocacy Matters to Medical Students

The American Medical Association (AMA) endorses: Physicians must “advocate for the social, economic, educational, and political changes that ameliorate suffering and contribute to human well-being.”1 Canada has adopted a similar commitment. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and CanMEDS, a physician competency framework further elaborates the ways in which physicians are accountable to society when it comes to health advocacy:

described as responding to individual patient’s health needs by advocating within and beyond the clinical environment, and also to the needs of communities or populations for system-level change in a socially accountable manner.”2

Physicians are particularly well qualified to function as effective advocates for patient’s health. Not only do they understand the medical aspects of issues better than anyone else; they are also better able to observe and draw out the links between social factors and health. Physicians hold a high degree of trust with the public, as doctors are experts in their respective fields.  Therefore, “given their social standing, physicians enjoy an unusual degree of access to policy makers, to local and national leaders, and to citizens; thus, they possess a great deal of leverage in influencing public processes and priorities.”3

This is especially important in the world of pediatrics as often times our patients are those that are the most vulnerable in society and cannot advocate for themselves. This is precisely one of the reasons why the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Pediatrics Residency Review Committee (RRC) now requires advocacy training and experience for all pediatric residents. 4

I believe physicians are well versed with their roles as advocates for the individual patient. Most, if not all physicians, have taken extra efforts to ensure that their patient receives a needed service. All physicians consider advocacy for patients an essential component of ethical practice, yet this alone does not meet the requirement for “public advocacy on the part of each physician.”5 Advocacy, according to this broader perspective, requires more than helping individual patients get the services they need; it requires working to address the root causes of the problems they face. Therefore, advocacy requires a broader perspective beyond the individual patients’ needs. It requires us to address the underlying cause from all perspectives to eradicate the issue.

References:

American Medical Association. Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine’s Social Contract With Humanity. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/upload/mm/ 369/decofprofessional.pdf. Accessed May 8, 2018.

Luft, LA. The essential role of physician as advocate: how and why we pass it on. Can Med Educ J. 2017 Jun; 8(3): e109–e116. Published online 2017 Jun 30. Accessed May 10, 2018.

Earnest M, Wong S, and Federico S. Perspective: Physician Advocacy: What Is It and How Do We Do It? Academic Medicine, Vol. 85, No. 1 / January 2010.

Harris Interactive. The Harris Poll #37: Doctors, dentists and nurses most trusted professionals to give advice, according to harris poll of U.S. adults. Available at: http:// www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/ index.asp?PID = 661. Accessed May 10, 2018.

Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Pediatrics program requirements. Available at: http://www.acgme.org/acWebsite/RRC_320/320_prIndex.asp. Accessed May 8, 2018.

American Medical Association. Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine’s Social Contract With Humanity. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/upload/mm/ 369/decofprofessional.pdf. Accessed May 8, 2018.

979 Total Views 7 Views Today
rasmeet-chhabra

Rasmeet Miller, "Almost" MD

My name is Rasmeet Miller. I am a 4th year medical student at Windsor University SOM.