There is little question that much can be accomplished through the work of the College's officers and staff. But the effectiveness of the College's socioeconomic efforts ultimately rests with its Fellows and their commitment to attempting to influence and effect legislative change that will have a positive impact on surgical practice. Paying membership dues isn't enough.
The College hopes that many of its Fellows will take an active stance in presenting their views and concerns to their elected representatives and thereby will be participants in, and not victims of, the political process. Following are some guidelines that have been developed to help Fellows communicate effectively with their legislators.
Establish and maintain credibility
Make the patient and quality of care your top priorities in medical issues.
Know the facts-do your homework and stay on message
Come prepared - Bring relevant supplemental materials
Remain confident - You are the expert on issues pertaining to surgery
Know your legislator's political views - Voting record and introduced legislation are important indicators.
Every issue has at least two sides - Be prepared to respond to the opposing viewpoint.
Offer to help - Serving as a trusted resource is a great way to get invited back
Respond to matters about which you have expertise - There is nothing wrong with saying "I will get back to you" vs. providing inaccurate data or misrepreseenting an issue
Establish regular, ongoing communications
Be brief - limit your comments to one issue
Remain extremely flexible - It may be necessary to hold a brief meeting in a hallway. Make the most of your time and thank the legislator for his or her time.
Bring a personal element - Tell your story or offer a real-life example
Make the ask - And connect it back to the legislator and his/her constituents
Photo document your visit - when appropriate
Follow-up and through - If you offered to provide additional information, do that within a day or two of your meeting.
Circle back - Contact offices, ideally no later than one week after your meeting, to thank them and to tie up any loose ends.
Maintain communications - on matters with which you agree as well as disagree and on subjects other than those of medical interest
Recognize accomplishments - Compliment or thank your legislator when he or she accomplishes something.
Get to know the legislator’s staff - Do not underestimate the power (or age) of the health policy staff. These individuals are key advisors and often times educate them with regards to specific votes.
Attend a fundraiser - A great opportunity to present a check, thank the legislator, and network with other health policy professionals.
Be proactive, not reactive
Be timely - Political options become restricted as the legislative process proceeds.
Avoid taking a self-serving position - Keep in mind the fact that legislators are looking for "political solution."
Be reasonable - "Reasonableness” often means that you have to compromise
Be persistent - There are times in the legislative process when you will have to be persitent. Remember, though, that there is a line line between persistence and being a pest.
Don't be late - Arriving on time (no more than five minutes prior to your meeting time) is encouraged.
Don't expect the legislator - Staff can be just, if not more effective, in championing your cause.
Don't discuss political contributions - Likely illegal - especially in government buildings.
Don't become emotional - You should remain the calm, cool, collected expert
Don't tell legislators something they already know - Tell them something they don't know and that they can use
Don't be afraid to defend or to debate an issue
Don't try to amend or compromise - Oppose legislation with which you disagree and be firm in your convictions
Don't feel you always "have to do something" - Sometimes it is best to remain neutral or do nothing.
Don't be too quick to call attention to newly introduced legislation - Sometimes it is best to"Let sleeping dogs lie."
Your most powerful allies are a legislators constituants ... who are your Patients and whose votes elect him or her.