Editor's Forum, Health Policy

Editor's Forum: Apathy Is Not Cool

When did organizational medicine become a dirty word? When did getting involved in physician administration and advocacy become uncool?

I was recently at a national conference where I participated in EMRA events all day, including Representative Council where resolutions were discussed; an attending I knew stated: “I don’t know how you can sit in meetings for hours! That sounds annoying and boring.” This was such an inaccurate statement of my day, as it actually involved no meetings and instead was consistent of resolutions and important health care policy discussions. More damagingly, his ignorant assertion was stated around impressionable junior residents.

This impression that being involved in health policy or organizational medicine is tedious and thus “below us” is such a prevalent opinion about emergency physicians. I can tell you, after being involved in health policy and organizational medicine the past few years, it’s anything but boring. Physicians are motivated. We are passionate. We are competitive. This field is made for us!

Somehow, people with business degrees and MBAs have convinced us this is tedious work. We were told enough times that this is boring and useless work that we have convinced ourselves of it. We have been successfully removed from the conversation. We are no longer the primary decision-makers (nor sometimes even part of the conversation) in many health care or government-related decisions. We complain and blame “administration” when our apathy put them in charge in the first place.

So I say, I hear the criticisms and naysayers and I reject it. There is such a need for physician leaders. We have seen that attendings, fellows, residents, and medical students are more motivated and want to get involved in administration and governmental affairs than our predecessors have ever been. EMRA supports these efforts through various avenues. Join our committees - it’s as simple as providing your email addresses in a website link. Show up - come to EMRA committee events at national conferences including ACEP, LAC, CORD, etc. Apply for Leadership Academy through EMRA/ACEP. Apply for the Health Care Policy elective as a medical student or resident. And of course, get involved by writing resolutions.

One of the most unique, powerful, and exciting privileges of membership is that your EMRA membership allows you to be part of the policymaking process. These policies are set at our bi-annual Representative Council. These resolutions help to set agenda for EMRA by providing guidance on projects to pursue, products to develop, and for the Board of Directors to hear about the issues that matter to you.

Do not let attendings, co-residents, or fellows sway you from pursuing leadership or administration positions because of their personal apathy or lack of interest. I think it is imperative to understand most people are uncomfortable when others understand concepts and ideas better than they do, and often use discouraging language as a defense mechanism.

Do not be that physician who ONLY complains and makes no effort to set forth any positive change. Do not be part of the problem. Work with EMRA, your hospital leadership organizations, national organizations to be part of the solution. EMRA will help you get you there. We are here to serve you. Together we can have a stronger voice in hospital leadership and health policy leadership.

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