Physician Advocacy Program Overview

Physician advocacy extends beyond the provision of good clinical care and advocacy on behalf of individual patients to include collaborations with people and organizations that combat interpersonal, structural, and systematic inequities and abuses in our society. Advocacy is the bridge that links patient care with efforts to address social determinants of health, institutionalized prejudices, and structural dislocations that patients and communities face. Physicians are especially qualified to advocate upon behalf of social change. The prestige and credibility that they command may serve as valuable resources in advocacy efforts.

The IMAP Physician Advocacy Program seeks to make advocacy a core professional value for physicians by developing a cadre of advocates with expertise in achieving policy change at the local, state, and national level. It achieves this through three core programs:
- the IMAP Physician Advocacy Fellowship
- the IMAP Education and Training Initiative
- the Physician Advocacy Merit Award

IMAP Physician Advocacy Fellowship 

Between 1999 and 2007, the IMAP Physician Advocacy Fellowship program supported doctors as they developed or enhanced their advocacy skills by implementing a project in partnership with an advocacy organization. During the fellowship period, 44 fellows in 16 states and Washington DC received awards to implement projects addressing issues including Medicaid coverage and enrollment, health care access, pediatric oral health, prison health care, and housing. The fellowship supported fifty percent of their salary over a two year period (the average salary of a primary care physician or pediatrician is $150,000).

Fellows have developed health care advocacy skills by working in the following areas:

  • Community organizing and mobilization around health outcomes disparities and health care access.
  • Communicating with national, state, and local regulatory and administrative bodies to advocate for outcomes that include better pediatric oral health care and broader coverage by state Medicaid programs.
  •  Advocating for changes that produce better services and outcomes for vulnerable populations, including children in foster care, detainees seeking asylum, and individuals who are incarcerated.
  • Advancing the health concerns of public housing residents to municipal housing agencies.
  • Mobilizing health care providers to increase the availability of reproductive health options.
  • Using media to raise public awareness about the need for greater access to health care.
  • Educating the public on policies that address youth violence, health care consumer protection, and early childhood education.

Read more about our past fellows here. 

IMAP Education and Training Initiative

In 2008, IMAP established the Education and Training Initiative in order to support the development of clinically-oriented advocacy curricula within medical education and/or residency training programs. IMAP selects three sites annually for the Education and Training Initiative, and has supported programs at Boston Medical Center, Jefferson Medical College, University of California at San Francisco, University of Colorado, the University of Rochester, and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. 
Read more about the Education and Training Initiative here. 

IMAP Physician Advocacy Merit Award

IMAP also began awarding its Physician Advocacy Merit Award in 2008. The award seeks to give national recognition to two to three physicians annually for their commitments and accomplishments in the health care advocacy arena. Past awardees include Neil Calman, Lisa Chamberlain of Stanford University, Michael Fiore of the University of Wisconsin, Benjamin Hoffman of the University of New Mexico and Yvette Roubideaux. 
Read more about the IMAP Merit Award.

IMAP Physician Advocacy Conference

Finally, IMAP holds an annual Physician Advocacy Conference that brings together the IMAP fellows, Merit Award winners, and leading physician advocates in order to exchange ideas about their roles as physician advocates in their communities. In 2009, conference speakers included Dr. Joshua Sharfstein the Principal Deputy Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Food and Drug Administration, Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Representative Jim McDermott (D, WA),a former neurologist and Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, 2008 IMAP Merit Award winner and current Director of the Indian Health Service.
To see past conference agendas and presentations, click here. 

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