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Get out the vote: How to use your voice to speak up for kids :

September 18, 2020

Editor's note: For more coverage of the 2020 AAP Virtual National Conference & Exhibition, visit

It’s not often you hear a pediatrician say she wants someone to catch a bug. But that’s exactly what Melinda A. Williams-Willingham, M.D., FAAP, is hoping for.

Dr. Williams-Willingham is leading a session titled “Vote Kids: What’s at Stake for Children in November Election?” (L2303) from 1-1:30 p.m. CDT Saturday, Oct. 3. And her aim is to infect viewers with the advocacy bug.

“Our goal is to make that sure we can capture more pediatricians and make sure they’re bitten by the advocacy bug and actually helping them find their voice,” said Dr. Williams-Willingham, chair of the AAP Committee on Federal Government Affairs and chair of the Georgia Chapter’s legislative committee. “I find that a lot of pediatricians who may not be familiar with advocacy just don’t realize how much power and respect they garner in their community.”

Dr. Williams-Willingham found her voice when she had a patient who could not receive a needed surgical procedure due to changes in Medicaid. A new graduate with small children of her own, she reached out to her AAP chapter for help.

“Fortunately, there were quite a few great mentors at that chapter that helped me understand that even being new in practice and having children, there were ways that I could contribute to the advocacy efforts as a whole,” she said.

During the session, Dr. Williams-Willingham will discuss how voting in the November election can be a powerful way to advocate for children and how pediatricians can get involved in the Academy’s Get Out the Vote campaign.

“Oftentimes, children’s needs are not necessarily at the forefront of our legislators’ thought processes,” she said. “It’s not intentional, of course. It’s because they (children) do not vote or they may not necessarily have a loud political voice. Sometimes, their needs are an afterthought.”

Among the many decisions elected officials can make that affect children are strengthening Medicaid, addressing the needs of children in immigrant families and developing fair housing practices.

Dr. Williams-Willingham will offer a menu of ways pediatricians can help get out the vote, whether they have a few minutes or a few hours. Among them: writing an op-ed to a local newspaper, encouraging patients and families to vote and hosting a virtual town hall for local candidates.

“If we don’t get involved and make sure our voices are heard and that we stand up for the kids that we serve, we will not like the outcome,” Dr. Williams-Willingham said. “So we really don’t have a choice. We really have to get engaged. We have to organize and we have to make sure that our voices are heard, especially when it comes to taking care of children.”

Access a recording of the session via the virtual platform  through Jan. 31, 2021.

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