Making connections

Physician advocacy: Tips for communicating with legislators via phone, letters and face-to-face

I’m here to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained from my years of advocating for physicians at the state and national levels.


For the last several years, the AOA’s public policy team has provided opportunities for osteopathic students and physicians to connect with their legislators during one-on-one meetings that take place during the August legislative recess, DO Day and other special events held throughout the year.

So many of us have been fortunate enough to participate in these meetings, which I feel are extremely efficient and beneficial to the relationships we make with lawmakers’ offices.

Meeting with my legislators

For the past few years, my August recess conversations with lawmakers in my district, which was in Pennsylvania, were mostly about the COVID pandemic. This year was a bit different, as I recently relocated to Louisiana. I was able to meet with a staffer from my Congressman’s office virtually and we talked about upcoming legislation, how the Congressman has voted recently, and plans for future meetings.

I was the only person on the phone and was able to share with them the AOA’s goals as we move forward in the legislative year. One particular issue that stood out to me was related to student loan debt. The Resident Education Deferred Interest, or REDI, Act helps relieve some of the financial stress of physicians in training by allowing them to qualify for interest-free deferment of their student loans while they remain in training.

As many reading this will know, repaying loans during training while my loans also accrued interest was tough to swallow. This bill would reduce stress during training and allow physicians to feel more comfortable and prepared to make payments following completion of training.

After this meeting, the congressional staffer and I discussed what our next meeting would be like. They would already be familiar with osteopathic medicine after this introductory meeting, so in the future we will be able to just jump right in and discuss relevant health care-related policies. It was so reassuring that they were interested in hearing from me, a physician constituent, about what means the most to our practice and our patients.

Creating and fostering relationships with your lawmakers via virtual or in-person meetings can have a significant impact. A survey by the Congressional Management Foundation found that 46% of congressional senior managers and mail staffers noted that in-person visits provide a lot of influence on a member’s decision regarding an issue. In contrast, only 14% of the same group felt that, in isolation, constituent phone calls highly influenced a member’s decision.

Constituent letters

For osteopathic physicians and students who are unable to make the time for a virtual or in-person meeting, constituent letters highlighting specific issues may also influence the direction a member may vote. Congressional staffers are likely to review these letters week to week. After sorting through by topic, they identify where their constituents’ opinions on varying topics lie.

Through the Osteopathic Advocacy Network, templated letters are available for osteopathic physicians and students to personalize and send to their members of Congress. A personal touch to these letters goes a long way: approximately 20% of respondents to the aforementioned survey felt that individualized post letters provided a lot of influence on a member’s decision on an issue.

Although there are varying degrees of influence a grassroots strategy might have on a lawmaker’s decision on a bill, each plays an important role in the overarching advocacy strategy.

Dillon’s Law

Meeting with legislators and their staff may only occur a few times a year with events such as August recess and DO Day. However, writing a constituent letter is something you can do more frequently and on your own time. Right now, the AOA is encouraging osteopathic students and physicians to write to their legislators on Dillon’s Law.

H.R. 4049, also known as Dillon’s Law, was introduced by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.) to incentivize states through grant prioritization to train, certify and thus enable laypersons to administer epinephrine to individuals experiencing anaphylaxis. This commonsense policy would help prevent unnecessary morbidity and mortality by allowing Good Samaritans to administer this life-saving medication.

As an emergency physician, I will emphatically support any legislation that increases appropriate medical training for laypersons and improves access to emergency care. Dillon’s Law is just one current example of AOA-supported legislation that would accomplish these goals through health care policy.

If you want to take action by sending your lawmakers an email on this legislation and other bills that impact the osteopathic profession, be sure to visit the AOA’s advocacy action center today.

Related reading:

Under the gun: The physician response to gun violence in America

Advocacy: Connecting with your legislators during the August recess

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy