Annual CMA PAC Fundraiser takes place

On Wednesday, September 26, the Columbus Medical Association PAC’s (Political Action Committee) annual fundraiser took place at the home of Doctor Pat and Laura Ecklar. Local physicians and medical students had the opportunity to interact with one another, and to discuss health-related policy issues.

“Everybody’s got a stake in policy. The more we participate, the more likely it is that things will work out the way we think they should,” Dr. Ecklar explained.

Dr. Pat Ecklar (left) speaks with a group of OSU medical students

Dr. Pat Ecklar (left) speaks with a group of OSU medical students

Dr. Ecklar, served as CMA President from 2003 to 2004. During this time, he was instrumental in developing the association’s “advocacy” wing. Under Dr. Ecklar’s direction, the CMA began meeting with political candidates, vetting them, and making recommendations to the OSMA.

“I think the interest for me was that we’re the experts in healthcare,” Dr. Ecklar said. “We don’t expect everyone to agree with us, but we at least want everyone to know the facts, the issues, the problems and roadblocks.”

This year’s invited CMA/OSMA endorsed candidate was Representative Rick Carfagna, who is completing his first term representing the 68th Ohio House District in Delaware County. Carfagna spoke with attendees about a variety of issues pertaining to public health.

Discussion topics and questions from physicians included mental health and addiction services, Medicaid expansion, technology access, immigration, family planning, and other issues.

State Representative Rick Carfagna listens to medical students at Dr. Ecklar’s home

State Representative Rick Carfagna listens to medical students at Dr. Ecklar’s home

“If you’re not at the table participating in the discussion, how can you hope to affect care? For too long, physicians have complained about what happened. But we weren’t at the table, trying to make sure that it didn’t happen,” Dr. Ecklar said.

Among the crowd were several medical students, including Douglas Weaver, President of the student chapter for the American Medical Association (AMA) at the Ohio State University College of Medicine (OSUCOM).

“If we don’t advocate for our patients, then who will,” Weaver said. “Physicians are the first lines of healthcare. They see the problems – they know what’s going wrong. Who better to help come up with solutions?”

Weaver, a second-year medical student, was first exposed to public policy as an undergraduate. Before medical school, he spent time working for Senator Harry Reed in Washington D.C. – and later worked for the governor of Utah.

“I was kind of caught off guard by how much I enjoyed politics,” Weaver said.

As he began his first semester of medical school, Weaver says he sought out opportunities to utilize this political experience and quickly became involved with the AMA-MSS chapter. Through his involvement, Weaver says he has recognized the positive impact that medical professionals can have on policy issues.

“I have definitely learned a lot – especially about how physicians can influence policy at the local level,” he said.

Rep. Rick Carfagna (left) speaks with Dr. Robert Falcone (right), CEO of the CMA

Rep. Rick Carfagna (left) speaks with Dr. Robert Falcone (right), CEO of the CMA

Austin and Wende Oslock, a pair of medical students both pursuing additional master’s (MPH and MBA) degrees in public health, were also in attendance. Both are actively involved in health advocacy.

“I think the more we learn about public health, the more we realize so much outside of just the patient impacts our patient’s health,” Wende Oslock said.

Wende is currently completing her MBA at the Fisher College of Business. In addition to her role as President of Medical Students for Choice, Wende is forming a “Sustainability in Medicine” student group that focusses on the environmental impact of healthcare institutions.

“From air quality, water quality, to quality of housing and access to insurance, all of that has such an enormous impact on our patients. It would be irresponsible of us, as healthcare workers, not to at least vote every election,” she said.

Her husband, Austin, is a third-year medical student who previously served as leader of the Students for National Health Program (SNaHP) at the Ohio State University. He shares similar sentiments regarding patients’ health.

“Somewhere around three-quarters of a person’s health is now identified as being related to behaviors that are created by our social environment,” Austin said. “Only a quarter of that is actually the medical care you receive.”

Rep. Rick Carfagna speaks to a group of physicians and OSU medical students

Rep. Rick Carfagna speaks to a group of physicians and OSU medical students

According to Austin, health issues are often much larger than the quality of medical care provided. Doctors also need to address the general health issues affecting patients outside their offices.

“These policies that can be very far-reaching, from housing to food assistance, have more of a health impact than physicians might acknowledge,” Austin said.

The physician’s voice is needed in the state government; and younger physicians are becoming increasingly more involved on the political front.

“Just like we need to educate patients on health behaviors, we need to educate politicians on what they can do to get the population’s health under control,” Wende said.

More and more doctors are working with representatives to improve the doctor-patient relationship. Organizations such as the Columbus Medical Association are working with representatives at the local level, to ensure that the physician’s voice is heard.

“The reality is that it takes a coalition,” Austin Oslock said. “As one physician it will be very difficult to create change. But as a group of physicians coming together… I think you can create change.”

For more information about the Columbus Medical Association PAC, click here.