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AAP members host a White Coat Rally at the Capitol Oct. 24.

Advocacy in full bloom during AAP National Conference & Exhibition

October 22, 2023

As the National Conference & Exhibition was taking place in the nation’s capital, advocacy was top of mind for thousands of pediatricians in attendance. Many shared their views during a rally Tuesday outside the U.S. Capitol and a group project inside the convention center.

“We are advocates by nature. The fight for justice is woven into our professional DNA. We are pediatricians, and that is how we are wired,” AAP President-elect Benjamin D. Hoffman, M.D., FAAP, told a packed ballroom during Monday’s Annual Business Luncheon.

Before the opening plenary address, members walked by the silhouette of an empty cherry blossom tree just outside the convention center ballroom. When each day’s plenary began, AAP leaders asked attendees to write their personal advocacy message on a blossom sticker and place it on a tree branch on the wall.

“Each blossom is a wish for a better future,” said National Conference Planning Group Chair Cassandra M. Pruitt, M.D., FAAP. “… Driven by our evidence-based policies and four generations of members who have advanced a vision that has made a difference for children, their doctors and society as a whole, we believe each day represents an opportunity to make the world a better place.”

As the conference continued, the tree filled with dozens of messages to form the AAP community’s voice of advocacy.

“Advocacy is not a static achievement in our role as pediatricians,” said plenary co-host David L. Hill, M.D., FAAP. “It is a constant approach to our role in caring for children. Children cannot vote and all too often cannot speak up for themselves. We are their advocates.”

Messages adorning the tree included “Racial justice,” “Better access to mental health services,” “Equal access to care for all youth,” “All children deserve to be safe and happy” and “Make gun violence a thing of the past.”

On the final day of the National Conference, a White Coat Rally in Union Park brought hundreds of sign-waving pediatricians to the National Mall to support policies that advance the health of children. Speakers advocated for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insure more than 50% of children in the United States; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); and more.

AAP President Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP, led the crowd in chants of “We are pediatricians” that could be heard from more than a block away.

Since its founding in 1930, the AAP has advocated for vaccines and ensured children have access to them, championed the creation of the Vaccines for Children program, and pushed for the Tobacco Control Act and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

The AAP also is involved in efforts to end family separation at the border, reduce air pollution, promote safer drinking water, eliminate exposure to lead and respond to climate change.

“Just imagine the founders of the Academy and all they dreamed about for the future of their profession, of the patients they cared for (and) being able to witness how much we’ve accomplished since the AAP was first formed nearly 100 years ago,” said plenary co-host Joanna Parga-Belinkie, M.D., FAAP.

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