The ACEP Leadership & Advocacy Conference (LAC) gives ACEP members a unique opportunity to learn more about what it takes to be a leader and provides updates on the key national and state issues affecting the practice of emergency medicine. This year, we descended on Capitol Hill May 5–8 to amplify the voice of emergency medicine with members of Congress on the issues of surprise billing and our country’s mental health crisis.
With nearly 150 EM residents and medical students included in the 500-plus attendees at the conference, the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association (EMRA) and ACEP’s Young Physicians Section (YPS) once again started the action on Sunday with their Health Policy Primer program. This half-day session started with a keynote talk by Steven Stack, MD, MBA, FACEP, the only emergency physician to be president of the American Medical Association. Dr. Stack challenged attendees to be “doers” who turn their words into action. Attendees got an introduction to several key issues—the opioid epidemic, prudent layperson, surprise billing, and the road to universal health care—during the lighting rounds.
As a new addition to the conference, ACEP developed a “Chapter Leadership Session” providing information and advice for current and future chapter leaders to more effectively engage members and strategically lead their chapters.
The Leadership Summit challenged us to take the lead on creating positive change in the health care arena. Brian Williams, MD, a trauma surgeon from Texas, provided a very personal and emotional description of advancing through the medical education system as an African American male. He described what it was like to play a central role caring for the Dallas police officers wounded by a gunman who was reportedly angry over police shootings of African American men. During that shooting, which occurred at the end of a protest against the police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, five police officers were killed and nine were injured. Dr. Williams’ touching comments at the press conference after the shooting resonated with people across the country, and his LAC session was riveting.
The Deep Dive
Monday’s afternoon session kicked off with a panel discussion about the public health crisis of firearm-related injuries and deaths and the emotionally-charged political and policy issues that influence attempts to better understand and reduce injuries from firearms. Demonstrating how emergency physicians can “walk the walk,” Roneet Lev, MD, FACEP, who was recently appointed chief medical officer of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Gerard R. Cox, MD, MHA, deputy undersecretary of health for the Veterans Health Administration, discussed the critical importance of emergency physicians being willing to serve in the public sector and how those who serve can become key policymakers in health care.
The final full group session of the day brought staff members from both congressional members and key House and Senate committee offices to talk about the increasing activity on out-of-network/surprise billing legislation at the federal level. These speakers are key thought leaders and senior policymakers in Congress. The opportunity to provide them the emergency medicine perspective was critically important to ensure that they understand the unique challenges facing our specialty as the 24/7/365 safety net for the country.