Lately, when the topic of elections comes up, and someone casually asks, "When do the conventions start?" I find myself rattling off dates -- "The Republican Convention starts this Monday, August 27th, in Tampa." To the surprise of friends and acquaintances I could go on, like I was rattling off my kids' birthdays. I'm not known for my political wonkishness or even my ability to manage my own calendar. But this convention season has special meaning for me: I'll be watching and cheering the Patients Over Politics Bus Tour organized by Doctors for America, a grassroots group of 15,000 physicians and medical students.
Doctors have traditionally been an apolitical lot, staying "above" partisan politics and carrying out their own solitary idealism under the radar screen -- quietly seeing patients who can't pay and serving patients' interests above their own. The growing complexity of modern medicine and the alarming rise of corporate influence on our health care over the past decade has changed all that. Doctors realize that they can no longer protect their patients' interest one encounter at a time. We are organizing, educating the public, and making our voices heard.
The Doctors For America Bus Tour is an example of this type of patient-centered activism. Doctors and their supporters will be rallying at the GOP Convention, meeting with politicians, and carrying thousands of signatures of support. The message : "We believe in an America where everyone has quality, affordable health care and where doctors and the public work together to build a health care system that works for all." Over the next week they will steadily make their way north, stopping at five cities along the way to hold informational town halls and provide free health screening clinics. On September 5th the DFA bus will arrive in Charlotte, NC, where the doctors will again bring our message loud and clear to the Democratic National Convention.
Politicians whose purposes it serves to dismiss such activity will shrug this off as the voice of a noisy socialist minority. How often have you heard from the status quo crowd that doctors don't like Obamacare? That myth vacillates between urban legend and baldface lie. Doctors support of health care reform in general and the Affordable Care Act in particular is a matter of record, and certainly not limited to progressive activists. Who officially and actively endorses the ACA? The American Medical Association for starts -- the largest physician organization in the country. Then there's my personal favorite, the American Academy of Pediatrics. The list also includes the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Academy of Cardiology, among others. We work in private practices, community health centers, and in academics. We are seasoned clinicians and passionate students, primary care docs and health policy experts. We are pragmatic as well as idealistic, both credible and trustworthy.
Doctors for America will indeed be making noise at the conventions. But they are not alone. For every one, determined white-coated doctor you get a glimpse at through a convention lens, know that there are thousands more of us across the country cheering him or her on. And we will continue to cheer, through the election season and beyond: "Patients over politics! Move health reform forward!"