“The world is run by those who show up.” I was never really one for politics. Throughout high school, I sat quietly and somewhat apathetically at the dinner table and in the classroom, listening to family and teachers discuss the most controversial topics of the day. During a college interview, I stumbled mightily when asked to comment on an important political issue. And during medical school, I was too busy trying to learn the basics of medicine to even think about what advocacy could mean for a physician, much less what it meant at all.
Yet as I progressed through residency, something changed. I realized that so much of what I did on a daily basis as an emergency medicine provider was the result of a much larger and increasingly convoluted health care system. I had questions, and I was seeking answers. Why did some of our psychiatric patients spend days boarding in the emergency department? Why was my state the only one in the country that did not have a prescription drug monitoring program? Why did I have to transfer this medically stabilized patient to another hospital because of their insurance?
While I did not have good solutions, I realized that these types of health policy issues were as applicable and as relevant to my daily practice as choosing an induction medication for rapid sequence intubation. And as this general election year was heating up, I found myself more invested in the process than ever before. I was incredibly fortunate to have been elected to the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association (EMRA) Board of Directors in October, and since then, I have had the privilege of learning about and participating in discussions regarding many of the issues affecting emergency medicine physicians and patients. For the first time ever, I wanted a stake in the game.
Unlike Abby, I used to be an avid follower of politics. In high school and college, I found myself glued to the presidential debates and enjoyed the process of developing my own set of opinions and beliefs, for the first time deciphering for myself what was right instead of simply parroting the viewpoints of my parents. But somewhere along the way through medical school and into residency, my fervor for the political process died. I felt myself becoming jaded given the constant standstill in Congress, the failure of our government to work together to make positive change, and the inability of our elected officials to accomplish just about anything at all. The fighting, name-calling, and House of Cards–style drama left me all but completely disillusioned that there was any point in even paying attention.