Med Student Mentor: Being a Politically Active Medical Student

May 15, 2015

Health care policy affects the way future physicians practice medicine, so as a med student you might be interested in getting involved. But where do you start? In this podcast, first year medical student John Sanchez interviews Nika Nour, a former House staffer. She provides some tips for where to start in your political endeavors, how to convey your messages to members of Congress and continuing to stay involved in issues you care about.

Transcript

Interviewer: Today show is all about how med students can get involved with health care policy because health care policy is going to affect the way that we practice medicine as future physicians.

Announcer: Navigating your way through med school can be tough. Wouldn't it be great if you had a mentor to help you out? Well, whether you're first year or fourth year, we got you covered. The Med Student Mentor, is on The Scope.

Interviewer: We're here with Nika Nour. She is the Digital Director for the Internet Association and a former Staffer for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

When you have a conversation with a congressman and you want to get something specific done, what is the best way to go about doing that? I mean, is it just saying, "If you don't do this then I'm not going to vote for you," or like is there a better way of getting the change that you want to see?

Nika: One thing is, when you come to the table and you meet with congressional staff or when you visit an office or when you talk to member of congress, come prepared with your point of view, with some information to back up what you're trying to convey. Really try to come up with three things that you would want their office to have in terms of a takeaway. Remember that, depending on the public policy or the topic that you're trying to get across, information and education is key.

Medical students are the experts in their industry. It's really important to find a way to reiterate what needs to be done and how it needs to be said.

Interviewer: Are there ways that medical students can get involved with lobbying or being on a campaign? Is that a more effective or is that another avenue to affect change?

Nika: As a citizen and a med student, any form of civic engagement is going to influence. Even something as simple as voting and being an active voter and really making those key decisions is a way that you can impact public policy because ultimately, you are deciding who's going to sit in that seat and who's going to go up to bat for you.

In terms of the lobbying front, there are a lot of third party groups out there and there's a lot of people that you can get involved with that are already up here in Washington. It's up to you guys to be able to find a local chapter or even reach out to them and kind of let them know that you want to help, you want to get involved, that you would like to dedicate some of your time and key knowledge to help whatever issue you're trying to advocate for.

Interviewer: With advocating for different issues, is it better to join lobbying organizations like American Medical Association or big organizations like that, so that way you have a lot of people behind you?

Nika: Any time that you can put in, any form of activity and as long as you're joining up with others that are aligned with your cause and your point of view, is going to be helpful.

If you feel that you're not getting your voice across or your point across, then sometimes these third party associations or organizations are a way to go. It really depends on what the topic is and what impact you're trying to make.

Interviewer: You mentioned before, timing. Timing is really important.

Nika: Right.

Interviewer: When is the best time to get involved and what should you do when you feel like it's time to get involved?

Nika: As early as you can, as established as your relationships are.

Once a bill gets to the House floor, it's already gone through committee, it's already been considered by a multitude of people. That doesn't mean that you can't change it. I'm just saying that the time that... it's more of being proactive versus reactive and what you'd want to do is to create that long lasting relationship.

For example, there's a big difference where you had already established a relationship that you've been informed that there are certain bills are being written and you are a part of it from day one. Or that you have already voiced your opinion early on and that you're constantly touching base with that office every few months, then you're more likely to see something on the floor that was a product of you.

If you wait, then you're getting into a much more reactive territory.

Again, it's a lot easier to build a house from the ground floor up than to remodel it.

Interviewer: Sure and you mentioned that there were websites that let you know about bills before they hit the floor. Do you know of any specific websites for health care policy?

Nika: Go to Congress.com and you could view the top 10 most viewed bills. You can look at committee reports, nominations, all sorts of legislations, sources. And you can even, for example just type into the Search, type in health care. If you actually go to Congress.com's website, it's an example of what you can type in to the search bar, is health care. It's evident that people are really actively using it.

Interviewer: Do you have any last thought?

Nika: I just encourage everybody to know who their representatives are from the local to a federal level and to understand the process.

Education works both ways. You can't impact public policy if you don't know how it works. The same goes for Congress, you can't write good comprehensive legislation if you don't understand the industry. It's really a helping of both hands that makes good legislation happen.

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