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Blog Post:
A Medical Student’s Perspectives of SSAT Lobby Day

By Grace Bloomfield, MS

I am a rising fourth-year medical student at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. I will be applying for General Surgery Residency training in the 2024-2025 cycle with the goal of becoming an academic surgeon. I have had the pleasure of SSAT Membership since early 2023 and have benefitted from many of the society’s programs by presenting at the SSAT Scientific Sessions during Digestive Disease Week (DDW) for the past two years, having a manuscript published in The Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, attended educational webinars, and most recently, advocated for patients and surgeons at SSAT’s Lobby Day on May 21, 2024, in conjunction with the annual meeting at DDW in DC.

When I received an email from SSAT about this year’s Lobby Day, I thought “how intriguing?” and signed up. Despite having grown up in Annapolis, Maryland, and living in DC for the past five years, I had never been to the Capitol or spent time on the hill, and I had certainly never lobbied. As a medical student with no experience in legislature or politics, I was worried that I would feel ignorant about policy issues or be unprepared to advocate for the society.

Fortunately, my initial concerns faded quickly after I arrived at our predetermined meeting on Monday at SSAT. There, I met Drs. Archana Jeeji and Ravi Radhakrishnan, who, like me, had never participated in federal lobbying efforts, and Drs. Anthony Vine and Shani Fruchter, who had recently advocated for the New York Chapter of the American College of Surgeons’ (ACS) legislative efforts in Albany and seemed like seasoned experts. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and excited to have medical student participation. Dr. Vine conducted a short preparatory meeting where he handed out informative packets and provided guidance on speaking to members of Congress and legislative aides. Soapbox Consulting had already lined up meetings based on participants states/congressional districts.

As we only had one meeting with DC legislators (the office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton who has served the people of DC as their Delegate to United States House of Representatives since 1991), I joined Drs. Vine and Fruchter for the New York meetings with the offices of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Ritchie Torres, Tom Suozzi, and Jerrold Nadler. During these meetings, we first thanked Congressional members and staffers for recent legislative accomplishments; specifically, 1) The Committee on Trauma’s bipartisan gun control act, which serves as a good start in the partnership between doctors and lawmakers to reduce preventable firearm-related violence; 2) the Dr. Lorna Breene act, which provides financial support for physician mental health and well-being in the wake of pandemic; and 3) Federal CMS prior authorization bills that have mitigated some administrative burden, but that the states have not followed for the younger patients who commercial insurance, contributing to administrative burden for all of us. We followed up on issues from the recent ACS Advocacy Summit and lobbied for equity in cancer screening for non-CMS insurances, currently many are not providing coverage for screening colonoscopies between the ages of 45-49 years, where in recent in years we have seen a rise in the incidence of colon cancer. We also educated the New York legislators about the SPARC Act, which provides $250,000 of student loan forgiveness to specialists and other physicians who choose to practice in rural areas. We addressed stabilizing the Medicare physician reimbursement system to keep up with inflation and rising malpractice insurance costs. We also addressed Stop the Bleed with several staffers and if they were not familiar with the Prevent BLEEDing Act (S.1653), made them aware that it has now stalled in Congress.

Despite having no prior advocacy experience, I felt well-prepared to speak with legislators about issues impacting patients and physicians thanks to Dr. Vine and the preparatory materials he provided in advance from SSAT/ACS. The staffers responded positively to our specific requests and agreed to recommend sponsorship or co-sponsorship of many of the bills we lobbied for to the members of Congress. Through Lobby Day, I gained a better understanding of the legislative process and of the significant and imperative role of surgeons and students in advocating for our patients and our profession. I am confident that on SSAT Lobby Day we made a direct impact on healthcare policy.

Grace Bloomfield, MS
Georgetown University School of Medicine, MD Candidate Class of 2025
SSAT Medical Student Member
gcb73@georgetown.edu

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