Nearly 550 attendees at Leadership and Advocacy Conference (LAC) this year explored major issues of health care reform implementation that impact the emergency medicine. In addition to getting up to speed on the issues, practicing physicians, residents, and medical students also learned how to be more effective advocates for our patients, our specialty, and the public. The highlight of the meeting is always ACEP Lobby Day, when conference attendees descend on Capitol Hill to discuss our issues and concerns with congressional leaders. The bills discussed by ACEP during our visits to the Hill this year propose real solutions to real problems that we face every day in caring for patients in the ED. This year’s key issues were psychiatric patient boarding, the lack of resources for mental health care, the lack of funding for graduate medication education, and the need for liability protection for EMTALA care provided in the ED.
This conference may seem quite intimidating to those who don’t consider themselves political experts. You might think that the conference is really only for the “club” of political geeks who have been attending since the conference first started back in the 1990s. It’s natural to feel that a member of Congress will recognize inexperience and eat you alive in a discussion about health care policy. Well, you would be completely wrong.
This conference is designed for everyone, from the political novice to the crustiest political wonk in the specialty. Perhaps that is the best thing about it. Beyond the issues, data, and charts, politics is really about building relationships. The strength of LAC is that it brings together residents, students, and young physicians who are new to the game and full of new ideas and incredible energy with others who are more seasoned in the specialty in order to network and learn from one another.
During the first two days, there are great presentations about current health care policy issues and building leadership skills. In addition to focusing on national-level policies and health care reform, we must realize that each of us is a leader every time we don our stethoscopes and pick up a chart. The leadership development sessions and experiences are designed to nurture skills and techniques that can be used at the chapter and national levels of ACEP–and help you in your professional and private life.