Our work as physicians centers fundamentally on our relationships with our patients, which includes advocating for them in the hospital setting and the community. While advocacy for educational and political change may be less widely accepted in the medical community, I believe it is our responsibility as physicians to take a stand on economic and social issues that affect the health and well being of our patients.
I had the privilege of representing rehabilitation patients twice this year in Washington, D.C., first as part of a group of leaders from rehabilitation hospitals around the country educating federal officials about the value of acute inpatient rehabilitation, which results in a more robust recovery than rehabilitation in the less expensive post-acute care setting. In November, I met with members of Congress in my role as president of the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) to advocate for federal support of rehabilitation education and research.
As you’ll read in this issue, Dr. Matt Davis continues his advocacy work for patients with spinal cord injury. In the past year and a half, he has devoted considerable time to educating officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the potentially negative consequences of catheter removal in patients with spinal cord injury as part of an effort to reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) rates at acute care hospitals. In February, Dr. Davis and Lex Frieden, an architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act and a staunch supporter of the independent living movement, will make a joint presentation at the AAP national meeting in Sacramento on “Physician Leadership in Advocacy in the Emerging Healthcare Environment.”
While we know we serve our patients well on an individual basis, advocacy is an opportunity to make a difference in their lives on a grander scale. One voice can be powerful, but many voices raised together can bring about lasting change.
Gerard E. Francisco, MD
Chief Medical Officer
TIRR Memorial Hermann
Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
McGovern Medical School