May 22, 2015
As the 84th Texas Legislative Session begins to wrap up, Doctors for Change (DFC) is beginning to reflect on this past season of advocacy in Austin, Texas. Since the first day of the legislative session on January 13, 2015, DFC has been making consistent trips to the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas to meet with legislators and advocate for health related issues that matter to Houstonians, including improving access to mental health care, human trafficking reform, and early education (see DFC policy priorities for more details). During an advocacy trip in March, a group of Rice University undergraduate students joined us as an alternate spring break trip. Instead of relaxing at home or on a beach, the Rice students, many of whom are planning a career in health care, wanted to learn more about health policy and advocacy! They were a great addition to our team and we truly enjoyed having this young group of future health care professionals join us! Go Owls!
Below are their inspiring reflections!
Kathleen Francis I think the most eye-opening experience for me was realizing that legislative advocacy really can make a difference. I’ve heard people talk about calling or writing letters to their congressmen before, but I always kind of dismissed it, thinking that they probably got too many letters anyways, and my letter could never make a difference. But when we went to Austin with Doctors for Change, we got to talk to lots of staffers of legislators and many of them mentioned that they set their policy priorities based on what they heard from their constituents. One representative was even introducing a bill based on a concern brought to him by a single constituent. Through the orientation and advocacy day, I also realized that I can’t just trust that other people will work to fix these problems, and that if I really believe something is important, then I need to do my part to work on that issue.
Natalie Polacek Going to Austin to lobby with DFC was a great educational experience. Until then, I had never gone to the Capitol to speak with the state legislature about issues relevant to the United States. It was very inspiring seeing doctors speak with politicians to advocate on behalf of patients, and I learned a lot about how so many different factors affect people’s health.
Angie Razo Being able to see first-hand health policy advocacy in the Texas Capitol was an unforgettable experience! Thanks to DFC, I was able to get a thorough run-down of what it takes to be an advocate for change in the health field. I am so grateful that Dr. Wilson Lam was such a great example to watch as he talked to the representatives. He was so informative and encouraging towards us. He taught us how to appropriately approach different representatives in a unique manner in order to optimize the relationship. Also, the pre-trip orientation was extremely useful. It was definitely necessary to have all that information in order to truly understand why Texas healthcare is in dire need of change.
Vinita Shivakumar The Austin Legislative Advocacy Day was extremely interesting to me because I did not know much about what was going on regarding healthcare policy beforehand. I had no idea how many bills on healthcare are proposed and considered every year. The day really showed me how important advocacy is.
David Lam As a hopeful future healthcare practitioner, I found my experience with Doctors for Change to be inspiring and empowering. By learning about the legislative process and the impact of advocacy, I now firmly believe in my ability to shape the world around me. If we aren’t the ones leading change in our communities, who will?
Woojin Lee Even as a Rice University student I always thought that politics was something that was unrelated to my life. Because I knew little about politics before our trip, I had a belief that I wouldn’t be able to make any significant changes to the laws being created here in Texas. However, the trip to Austin with DFC definitely changed that attitude of mine! Through DFC I realized that even as a college student I can make significant changes to the policies that will be created here in Texas, and that state representatives are definitely interested in hearing what I have to say. Thank you Doctors For Change for giving me an opportunity to make a difference!
Kayla Hatchell As a pre-medical student planning on becoming a primary care physician and caring for underserved patients, I have been focused on learning about health disparities and increasing access to care. I assumed that the only way physicians could participate in caring for uninsured patients was to volunteer their time and expertise in free clinics. I never made the connection that physicians can influence healthcare policy to increase access to care for their patients. Going to the Texas State Capitol for the DFC Advocacy Day and speaking with staffers and legislators made me realize that physicians can have a broader societal impact by advocating for improved healthcare policies. I was inspired by the knowledge of the DFC members that we partnered with, and I hope to become more engaged with healthcare policy in the future. Thank you for hosting our group and encouraging us to become active citizens!
Shannon Cheng I really enjoyed doing Doc Days in the Houston Public Libraries. It was great to see how interested the kids were in what we were doing and how quickly they could pick up names and concepts. After spending a few years in college, it has become very easy to get worn down with all of our studies and it was inspiring to see them look at everything with a fresh and excited perspective. We only spent one afternoon with them and we didn’t do a lot, but I hope that the small exposure that we were able to give them will prime them in the future to learn more about eating and living healthily. It was also nice to see the parents get engaged and see that they were invested in making lifestyles too. Spending the afternoon at the libraries was a valuable contrast with the policy work that we were doing with DFC, allowing us to spend time in the community and learn more about the social influences on health.
To learn more about how to become an advocate for something you care about, please check out DFC’s Legislative Advocacy Training.