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Chapters increase member engagement through advocacy :

December 7, 2018

Advocacy for children on the state and federal levels has been a long-standing priority for AAP chapters. The proportion of chapters engaging in federal advocacy has increased from 42% in 2015 to 74% in 2018, according to the 2018 Chapter Needs Assessment.

During the same time period, chapters have increased engagement with residency programs as well. More than 50% of chapters reported that they have residency program representatives on their executive board, and 74% indicated residents participate in chapter advocacy days.

Following is a summary of exemplary advocacy and residency program engagement in five chapters: New York Chapters 2 and 3, Kansas, Mississippi and California Chapter 3.

Advocacy sparks member engagement

While it is important for pediatricians to speak to their legislators, it is equally important to speak out in their own communities, said Eve Meltzer-Krief, M.D., FAAP, a member of the New York Chapter 2 executive and legislative advocacy committees.

As she became active in her community, Dr. Meltzer-Krief found that her voice as a pediatrician was respected. Her involvement also has aided in her professional development.

“I have become more comfortable with public speaking and can even do it ‘off the cuff’ now when I speak about something I’m knowledgeable and passionate about. I have realized that my voice does matter,” Dr. Meltzer-Krief said.

Nina A. Agrawal, M.D., FAAP, co-chairs the Injury and Violence Committee and is chair of the Gun Safety Prevention Committee for neighboring New York Chapter 3.

A child abuse pediatrician in the Bronx, Dr. Agrawal got involved in her chapter when a former chapter president invited her to share the gun safety advocacy she had been doing with Doctors for America. Later, she teamed up with Jeffrey Oestreicher, M.D., a member of New York Chapter 2, on a joint Gun Violence Prevention Committee that now has more than 60 participants.

Dr. Oestreicher, a pediatric emergency department physician at a level 1 trauma center, said he saw too many children fall prey to gun violence. He tried to study whether paramedic interventions would increase survival of children who were shot but found himself blocked from working with community services. So he turned to his chapter, where he learned advocacy skills that have allowed him to further his passion for gun violence prevention.

Most recently, Dr. Meltzer-Krief, Dr. Oestreicher and New York Chapter 2 President Steven J. Goldstein, M.D., FAAP, co-hosted a candidate forum with the Huntington League of Women Voters for a local election. Community members, pediatricians, parents and children gathered at a local library for the forum, which focused on gun safety legislation, education, lead screening and teen vaping.

Partnering with residency programs

Like advocacy, chapter involvement with residency programs is on the rise.

The Kansas Chapter planned its advocacy day around two residency programs’ calendars to ensure residents would be able to participate.

The Mississippi Chapter provides educational opportunities to resident members, including advocacy training and participation in its annual state Capitol Day.

“Not only are we amping up our collective voice in advocacy by including residents, but we are also assuring that future pediatricians have the greatest impact by including advocacy training and opportunities to residents before they go out into pediatric practice,” said chapter Executive Director Gretchen Mahan.

Answering the call

The 2018 Chapter Needs Assessment identified that member engagement is a critical topic, prompting chapters to look for ways to increase volunteer opportunities.

Marsha D. Spitzer, M.D., FAAP, president of California Chapter 3 and a member of the AAP Chapter Forum Management Committee, said she became involved in the chapter because she was personally asked.

“I think the single most successful way to engage members is for the chapter leadership to individually reach out to members and find out what is their area of interest and then try to connect them with the committee or project that is working in that area,” she said.

Involvement doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. Many chapters have short-term activities such as calling state and federal representatives, mentoring new residents and volunteering at chapter events.

Chapters also provide a pathway for leadership at the local, state and national levels.

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