By Harika Kantamneni, DO, PGY-3, OB/GYN, Grandview Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio
Advocacy plays a prominent role in my life. I first realized its importance when I started medical school at the University of Pikeville – Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (UP-KYCOM). At UP-KYCOM, I had great mentors who encouraged every student to actively participate in policymaking, whether by attending advocacy days such as AACOM’s COM Day on Capitol Hill to discuss issues with lawmakers, or by volunteering to help take care of our community.
As a medical student, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend two months with AACOM’s Office of Government Relations as an Osteopathic Health Policy Intern (OHPI) in Washington, DC. The internship allowed me to participate in AACOM’s efforts to support federal policies and programs impacting the osteopathic medical education community, and taught me how to effectively advocate for issues important to medical students, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
When I entered residency training, I soon realized that being a good physician involves advocating for your patients. Many patients aren’t aware of the numerous laws and regulations that affect the health care they receive. It is my job to make sure patients understand these laws and regulations and are able to make the best decisions for their care, along with ensuring that laws and regulations allow me to provide the best care I can to my patients.
Through joining the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), I became more involved in issues pertaining to my day-to-day practice. I soon got the opportunity to complete the Gellhaus Resident Advocacy Fellowship with ACOG’s Government Affairs Team, where I worked to increase awareness of and involvement in grassroots advocacy within the resident community. I also worked directly with lawmakers and their offices to discuss issues relevant to my patients. At first, I was surprised by how many congressional offices wanted to listen to what I had to say, but as an expert on these matters, they valued my input and perspective. I also noticed that the more frequently I met with each office and followed up, many legislative directors and even some Members of Congress began to remember me. This enabled us to spend more time discussing issues, since I stopped having to establish who I was each time I visited. This experience highlighted for me how vital it is to have continued, long-term involvement to see advocacy’s full effects.
I am a proud, lifelong advocate for myself and my patients. I encourage you to make the same commitment. Find an issue you feel strongly about, and advocate for it—whether it is medical student debt or maternal mortality, which I am passionately working to address. No matter where you are in your advocacy journey, remember why you started, and keep on going!
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by AACOM.