A Resident’s Primer on Radiology Advocacy
My Rutherford Fellowship Experience
I was incredibly fortunate to complete the ACR Rutherford-Lavanty Governmental Relations Fellowship last month in our nation’s capital. The fellowship, established in 1993, was named in honor of the first ACR lobbyist, J.T. Rutherford, and Donald F. Lavanty, ACR’s principle legislative consultant for 42 years.
The goal of the fellowship is to include radiology residents and fellows in government activities at the state and federal level, to familiarize young physicians with the regulatory processes in which the ACR participates, and to provide education on health policy.
The week was very busy. I attended breakfasts, lunches, dinners, receptions, and other events that were held for specific members of Congress. Most of these events were specifically related to fundraising. However, these meetings also provided an excellent opportunity to see the sequence of events involved in passing key legislation. I was also able to experience the political climate of Washington in an election cycle. I met key leaders in both parties on a one-on-one basis, which provided me an opportunity to speak candidly about key radiology legislation.
I think my most significant takeaway from this fellowship experience was the impact of the exemplary ACR Governmental Relations team. I have seen firsthand the tireless efforts of our ACR staff and the brilliance they bring to Capitol Hill. I have also witnessed the stalwart relationships they and the ACR have with key members of congress so that our issues are heard and our legislation is ultimately passed. Recent examples include our victories with reducing the multiple procedure payment reduction from 25 percent to 5 percent for Medicare reimbursement for advanced imaging studies (CT, MRI, US) performed on the same patient, in the same session, on the same day and the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act, which ensured a two-year timeframe in which insurers will be required to cover yearly mammograms starting at age 40. These are major victories for the College and would not have come to fruition without our Governmental Relations team at the frontlines advocating on our behalf as well as the efforts of ACR members.
From this enlightening experience, I realized the vital role radiology advocacy plays in securing our future. Amid all the pressures of taking call, studying, and dealing with the everyday challenges of residency and fellowship, it is very easy to lose sight of what lies beyond training. But it is important that we acknowledge the importance of government relations now so that we can develop a framework for radiology advocacy and establish the skills to carry out advocacy effectively for our field in the years to come. This will only make us standout as assets to our future practices and institutions.
As for now, there are so many ways to get involved during training. Donating to RADPAC, our powerhouse bipartisan political action committee, is a great way to contribute to the cause, even if all you can spare is a couple dollars. During my fellowship, I saw firsthand that these donations make all the difference.
In fact, the RADPAC March Madness Campaign is underway now. During the month of March, state chapters compete to raise money for RADPAC (and win $500 for the chapter at the same time).
Another great way to get involved is through the Radiology Advocacy Network, which helps get the word out around advocacy calls to action. Additionally, you can run for the ACR RFS Advocacy Liaison position at this year’s annual meeting. And of course, I encourage you to apply for the Rutherford Fellowship.
It’s vital that each of us contribute in some fashion, whether monetarily or in terms of donating your time. Advocacy is pivotal in solidifying our stance in Washington and will equip us now and in the future to ensure our profession will thrive in the years to come.
By Amy K. Patel, MD