Every pediatrician a lobbyist

October 10, 2004

"If you are not a lobbyist, you are not doing your job as a pediatrician." That was the blunt challenge from Tom Pendergrass, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and chair of the legislative committee of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"If you are not a lobbyist, you are not doing your job as a pediatrician."

That was the blunt challenge from Tom Pendergrass, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and chair of the legislative committee of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatricians are comfortable with the idea of advocacy, he told a lunchtime audience Saturday at the AAP 2004 National Conference & Exhibition. But many are less comfortable expanding advocacy into active lobbying of legislative and regulatory officials.

"If we are going to advance any national agenda, we have to get people off the dime," he said. "You have to talk about your goals and your positions on important issues if you expect to see change on any level."

Dr. Pendergrass offered five easy steps every pediatrician can take:

  • Use the telephone! - all it takes is one call every week to an elected official to make your voice heard

  • Get others to call or write; state legislatives consider a dozen telephone calls or letters a groundswell, so it takes very little effort to have a significant impact

  • Advertise your issue by wearing pins or conspicuous badges, put signs in the windows at home and in the car, and carry folders with your advocacy organization name and message

  • Talk about your issue at every opportunity

"We form opinions by listening," Dr. Pendergrass explained. "Every time you talk about your issue, you add to the weight of public opinion on your side. Talking is what moves public opinion."