Last year I had the opportunity to attend OMSA's annual Lobby day. This day is actually part of an entire weekend where OMSA not only lobbies for an important issue in healthcare, but gives medical students a crash course in leadership and political advocacy.
To be honest when I initially heard about this weekend I wasn't interested. This was odd as I was also part of OMSA's political advocacy committee (OPAC) which develops the "ask" to be lobbied each year. I liked the idea of learning more about health policy and improving access to healthcare, but I saw myself as a behind the scenes guy. I felt there was no way I would be prepared to talk to an MPP. I saw clips of question period on the news. If that is how loud an MPP can yell across the legislature, I didn’t want to imagine what it would be like talking to them in the same room.
As I was part of OPAC I was encouraged to go and I hesitantly agreed. My initial thoughts on this weekend could not have been more wrong. The first day, which consisted of various leadership training and advocacy sessions, was pertinent, concise, and most importantly, useful. Throughout the day, physicians came in to talk about their experiences in advocacy from the patient level all the way to the provincial level, which as cliché as it sounds was very inspiring. The second day consisted of training for the actual lobby day itself. Everyone was thoroughly briefed and given a good background knowledge on the subject, in this case it being health human resources. The actual lobbying itself was also different than I expected. I seemed to forget that MPPs are elected to represent their constituents and that includes talking to them. Both MPPs I met with were very supportive of the "ask" and no voices were raised.
Not only did the formal component of the weekend allow me to learn and practice my advocacy skills, I learned quite a bit from my fellow medical students. It was very humbling and exciting to hear about all the great initiatives being run by medical students across the province. Talking to them, hearing their stories and their passion for their projects was very interesting. This weekend was worth it alone for the discussions. Overall I felt like a learned a great deal over the weekend on top of getting to advocate for a very important issue.
Advocacy, like any other skill requires practice. Though we may not plan to have a "formal" advocacy role in future, all of us will have to be advocates for our patients. Lobby day provides a great learning opportunity to do so and puts you in contact with a great group of individuals. I would highly encourage anyone who is thinking about attending this year's lobby day (April 12-14, 2014) to do so.
- James A. (UWO)
[Editor's Note] For more information about our past Lobby Days visit https://omsa.squarespace.com/lobby-day/
Hope to see you in Toronto this year!