Association of Academic Physiatrists
Q&A with Karen Morice, MD
Sports Medicine Fellowship Associate Program Director at Montefiore, Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Member of the AAP’s Public Policy Committee
How did you get started in your advocacy efforts?
I started during residency, when my hospital was joining the Committee of Interns & Residents (CIR), a national union for residents. I became very involved in the formation of the initial contract, was elected a delegate for my hospital, then went on to become a regional vice president. I went on one Capitol Hill visit with CIR during residency.
What skills learned during your medical training have helped you in your advocacy efforts?
I learned how to explain complex medical concepts to people who aren't medically trained (patients), which was needed at the Capitol Hill visit. It wasn't until working with CIR that I learned that was a useful skill for advocacy because our representatives rely on us to explain medical issues to them.
What challenges have you encountered?
Opportunities to use my medical knowledge to speak with our representatives; feeling like I don't have enough prior advocacy experience to be more helpful; having the time to participate in advocacy efforts; knowing what small things I can do when my time is limited.
Why do you serve on the AAP's Public Policy Committee?
I want to use my medical training and physiatric training (we're ideal team leaders, harnessing the varied expertise of those around us) to make positive changes for my patients on a larger scale than I can with one-on-one patient encounters or in teaching future clinicians.
How have you seen advocacy change over your career?
Online petitions and other communications are prominent now. I finished residency in 2008, and technology has come a long way since then, and we're more reliant on it.
Should all physicians be active advocates? Why?
On some level, yes, but doing Hill visits with representatives, joining national committees, or making phone calls isn't the right fit for everyone. It can be encouraging to a patient to follow through on calls to their insurance company, voting in elections, the physician or physician's office hounding an insurance company to cover medically necessary treatments. There are many ways to be an advocate.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Start with your national societies. They've been doing it a long time, so they likely have guidance on their websites with various ways to get involved, people who can be contacted to answer questions, suggestions on how to talk to a representative, etc. Also, decide what sparks your interest, and start there. There are so many things to advocate for, so get involved in something that's important to you.