ACR Bulletin

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Advocacy 101 for Residents

Online presentations drive home the importance of getting involved. 
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I would say to any member reading this, you can do something similar — your own version of educating residents on advocacy.

—Sarah S. Avery, MD, FACR
January 20, 2023

Throughout 2022, the ACR’s state government relations (GR) staff teamed up with leaders from the Texas Radiological Society (TRS) to present an Advocacy 101 series to eight different radiology resident programs throughout the state. Sarah S. Avery, MD, FACR, president of the TRS and a radiologist with the Austin Radiological Association, and others from TRS were integral in promoting and presenting webinars focused on the importance of physician-led advocacy and how residents can get involved.

These presentations are tailored to fit a resident’s and program’s individual needs. The Bulletin recently spoke with Avery about how she and other TRS leaders spearheaded this webinar series — which counted 154 resident attendees — and how other state chapter leaders can work with the ACR to present an Advocacy 101 series to residents in their own states.

Why did you decide to get involved in this Advocacy 101 series for residents?

We want to get young people involved. I got involved in advocacy mainly because when we had monthly board meetings at my group, legislative and regulatory issues were discussed as they affected our practice. We wanted to explore how we could better take care of patients and how certain issues could affect our business model. Everyone was essentially encouraged to better understand the various economic, legislative and advocacy topics in our state. It became a central part of the TRS strategic plan. I have been involved in advocacy efforts for some time. Before I became president of the TRS, I was past chair of the TRS political action committee and sat on our legislative committee. I felt like it was a great fit for me to lead this webinar series to educate residents.

How much work went into putting together these webinars?

I had some trepidation at first, but it came together easily and quickly with the help of many folks — our GR staff at ACR, TRS staff, our TRS lobbyist, and TRS Executive Director Christy McDonald. It didn’t take much of a time commitment, and it was inexpensive. We put these webinars out there to give residents the opportunity to participate. It was the same program material essentially with each presentation, but we had a slightly different approach for each major school in the state. We pride ourselves on having many training programs in Texas. But it should be relatively easy to pull off this sort of thing in any state.

Why is it important to educate residents on state advocacy efforts?

We want to educate them on some of the big topics that are facing our profession right now. Scope of practice is one example. This is about patient safety, patient access and potential economic impact. Understandably, residents are focused on their education and might not understand the legislative, regulatory and economic topics that should be part of their focus. For instance, I have been involved in state-level legislation that changed the Texas Department of Insurance code to give patients access to diagnostic breast imaging without a co-pay. It is about helping patients. Plus, when we did a member survey about a year ago, respondents told us that advocacy was the number one thing they wanted TRS to do for them. It’s extremely important to our members.

How do you get residents involved?

We want to educate residents at all radiology programs in Texas. This includes outreach to diagnostic radiologists, interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists and medical physicists. You have to make it part of your group’s strategic plan. Our members-in-training are very focused on the didactic and educational parts of their programs. When they find out and learn about some of these non-interpretive issues as part of their residency, it can be powerful and useful to their future careers. It can be difficult to reach them at times, but doing simple things, like hosting webinars, can go a long way in getting them interested.

What can other state radiological groups do to promote advocacy to residents?

We are encouraging all residents to go to the Radiology Advocacy Network website of the ACR and sign up. I would say to any member reading this, you can do something similar — your own version of educating residents on advocacy. Texas is big, and this project cost us virtually no money. I’m sure other states could launch the same type of outreach presentation with the hope of helping residents better understand the importance of advocacy in their states. You can scale up or down, depending on what is going on in your state in terms of training programs and exactly what you want to present.

Author Interview by Chad E. Hudnall  senior writer, ACR Press