Why women physicians need to be involved in politics

We’re at an interesting point in American history. One hundred years after women finally won the right to vote, there are 126 women in Congress, 90 in statewide offices (including nine governors), and 2,152 female state legislators. And come January 2021, we could have our very first female vice president. 

Why does any of this matter? Because all of these women have fought glass ceilings to get to where they are. No matter their politics, they all want and need to hear from their constituents. Furthermore, they trust physicians — and are much more apt to trust women physicians. 

They listen to us because we not only have expertise in our field, but we’ve fought the same fights against the proverbial glass ceiling. Women in medicine and women in politics are often subject to the same roadblocks toward career advancement.

As our political leaders get to know us, they realize quickly they can trust us. In turn, we are able to offer crucial advice to help shape government policy to be better for women. 

Understanding health care policy, as well as how to shape it, is key to being able to be an effective advocate and policy advisor.  Moreover, having a network of fellow physician advocates to work with is both fulfilling and critical to this work. 

Organized medicine is a key pathway for women physicians to learn how to shape both local and national policy, as well as build those all-important networks. It is also a fertile training ground to learn how to make those connections with your local and national legislative leaders to build those long-term relationships. Through organized medicine, women physicians can gain experience, training, and access to support networks and resources to run for office themselves. 

There are many ways to get involved, as organized medicine exists in many forms, including national organizations such as the American Medical Women's Association, American Medical Association, and National Medical Association. Each specialty also has its own national society, as does each state. 

For some, the idea of getting involved can be daunting. Politics can seem like a bloodless sport at times. But, it is also a place where we can make a difference in the lives of so many.

Bisgrove

JOANNA TURNER BISGROVE

MD, FAAFP

A family physician near Madison, the state capitol of Wisconsin. She has been co-chair of the Legislative Committee for the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians since 2014, and has built relationships with several state legislators and their staff.  She has testified before the state legislature on several occasions, including lead testimony for legislation to simplify prior authorizations for medications that later became law.  
At the national level, Dr. Bisgrove is a delegate for the American Academy of Family Physicians to the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates, the AMA’s policy making body.  She is also a member of the AMA’s Women Physicians Section Governing Council, which has joined with other women physician groups to help lead the charge for gender equity in healthcare.  She works regularly with her US Senator, Tammy Baldwin, and her US representative, Mark Pocan.  

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