How to be an advocate within obstetrics and gynecology

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In this video interview, Jamila Perritt, MD, discusses her presentation at the 2024 ACOG Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting on how ob-gyns can be an effective advocate.

In a presentation at the 2024 ACOG Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting, Jamila Perritt, MD, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, underscored the importance of advocacy as an essential component of medical practice. Perritt, a board-certified ob-gyn with specialized training in complex family planning, shared insights on how physicians can effectively engage in advocacy to benefit their patients and the broader community.

Physicians may oftentimes think advocacy is not a part of their work; however, Perritt explained, that is not necessarily the case.

“One of the things that we talked about during this presentation is really helping to drive the point home that as a physician, you're already doing advocacy work. We do it in ways big and small,” said Perritt. She added that physicians are oftentimes mediators between insurance companies or between patients and family members.

Perritt also emphasized that just as medical procedures require training, so does advocacy. "Strategic advocacy requires intention and preparation," she explained. She advised health care providers to focus on key messages, simplify complex medical data for broader audiences, and utilize their strengths, whether in writing, public speaking, or social media engagement.

Addressing common concerns about the potential conflicts between professional responsibilities and public advocacy, Perritt encouraged physicians to explore their institution's policies and consider advocating as private citizens.

Perritt also advocated for an intersectional approach to advocacy. "We don't live single-issue lives and our advocacy should not be single issue as well. While it's tempting to think about advocating for one thing over another, what we want is to tell to do our advocacy in a way that honors the complicated lives that our patients live in the complicated experiences that we have in the world,” she said.

Storytelling emerged as a crucial element in Perritt's address. She stressed the importance of obtaining patient consent before sharing their stories and being mindful of whose narratives are highlighted. "We don't want anyone to turn on the TV or open up the newspaper or look online and find that someone is sharing their story without their permission and without their consent. So, being ethical is going to be important," she noted.

Perritt's presentation served as a call to action for health care providers to embrace their role as advocates, leveraging their unique positions and expertise to drive meaningful change.

Reference:

Zieman M, Perritt J. Using Your Voice to Be an Effective Advocate. Presented at: ACOG 2024 Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting; May 17-19, 2024; San Francisco, California.

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