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News & Press: WPA News

White Coats, Doctor Day and Advocacy

Thursday, May 16, 2019  
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President's Message, May 2019
John Schneider, MD

Hello from Washington, D.C.! 

While I won’t make it to the upcoming 175th American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting May 18-22nd in San Francisco, I have made a pilgrimage to see the relatively new APA headquarters location – I’ll give more of an update on my half-day of tour and meetings in a future update.  As you likely know, last year the APA moved from its Arlington, VA location where it had been 15 years to the new location.  The APA Trustees decided on the move for several reasons, one of the most important was to ensure that the location was in proximity to Capitol Hill, Congress and regulatory agencies for advocacy activities.

When Saul Levin MD, MPA, our APA CEO and Medical Director spoke at our last Fall Conference, he noted that one of the most notable sights when the American Medical Association and other specialty societies, like APA have Federal Advocacy Days is seeing the physicians in their white coats.  Compared to many other medical and non-medical professions who come it DC, it’s visually very easy to see that physicians have come to Washington because they are wearing their signature white coats.

On May 1, 2019, the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association, in participation with Wisconsin Medical Society (WMS) and about 20 other specialty societies/associations participated in our 6th Annual Doctor Day in Madison.  In preparation for the event, I reflected on Dr Levin’s comments.  I hadn’t had a white coat since residency, a good number of years ago... but, I went out and got one.

This year’s Doctor Day was another successful event.  We had a WPA/Psychiatrist specific breakfast breakout to meet-greet-discuss the day.  We had a robust discussion about how advocacy is inter-personally and relationally driven and that psychiatrists by our education, training and skills are capable of expert management of interpersonal interactions and relationships.  Dr’s Chou, Miller, Schoen and others gave tips, suggestions and ideas on how to develop relationships with your elected representatives.

Next, we convened with the larger Doctor Day group.  Here the WMS and WPA Lobbyists lead the presentation and discussion about our advocacy points for the day – Vaccinations and Medicaid Access.  Erin M Schoenecker, MD, FACOG, introduced her father, Governor Evers.  He and his Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary Designee Andrea Palm discussed their policy views and initiatives in broad strokes.  After lunch we donned our signature white coats and walked from the Monona Terrace up Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and mounted the steps of the capitol building for our group picture before we broke up into small groups to visit the offices of the 33 State Senators and 99 State Assembly representatives.

For me the takeaway points are: we are physicians first and must act that way, including wearing white coats as appropriate; second, we need to wisely position ourselves to be advocates for our profession and our patients; third and finally, we need to do this together – by stepping out and developing relationships with other physicians and with our elected representatives.