People are beginning to understand their individual and collective abilities to fix some of the issues that turn trainees away from primary care careers daily. Primary care advocacy means bringing people together and harnessing their collective passion and vision to re-educate people about the facts about primary care, offer mentorships to trainees, and introduce new models of care and education.

Why is primary care advocacy important?

Big fixes to increase the primary care pipeline (like reimbursement reform) are going to take time, possibly years, to work. But there are are things we can do right now to revitalize our primary care pipeline. By taking on some of the more accessible challenges right now, like establishing a robust primary care mentoring network, we'll be building our local support networks and inspiring like-minded colleagues elsewhere to take similar action.  And as a bonus, we’ll be building the activation energy needed to generate further momentum for some of the larger, more permanent fixes we all support. 

How can someone take a role in local primary care advocacy?

Across the country, trainees are mobilizing unprecedented efforts to promote primary care utilizing their unique skill sets, unparalleled optimism and unquenchable desire to make a positive difference.
For years, silos have separated the family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric communities. These silos have inhibited us from mobilizing our true potential power, making it impossible to address persistent challenges including an academic medical culture that devalues generalist careers, an absence of inspiring mentors, and a lack of exposure to new models of care. It’s time to step out of these silos.

What are some examples of local primary care advocacy?

1) Activities to raise awareness. We have an information problem in primary care. There’s either not enough information about what we do and why we're important, or there’s a lot of information that's inaccurate and biased. Here are some examples of what you can do:
a) Form a primary care "breakfast club" or journal group where you and your colleagues can regularly meet to discuss the latest in primary care clinical innovation, policy, or research. For example, you could discuss an article from our Policy Corner.
b) Host a primary care provider panel where inspirational clinicians can talk about their professional and personal lives and why they chose a primary care career.  Our Georgetown chapter held one such event that was incredibly successful.
c) Take the primary care temperature of your institution through a survey that looks at students’ initial interest in primary care careers, their understanding of primary care issues and the overall availability of resources for those who desire more information/exposure. For example, our Penn chapter recently organized a survey that found that 50% of first year students were interested in primary care careers.
2) Activities to build relationships and strong local networks. The importance of building relationships can’t be overstated. Whether these relationships are for mentorship, collaboration, or for rapid dissemination of information, they play a critical role in establishing meaningful connections amongst our community. Here are some examples of what you can do:
  1. Build a local mentoring network.  Trainees interested in primary care need inspiring and positive mentors while faculty feel rewarded by supporting the next generation of primary care clinicians. For instance, our New Jersey Medical School chapter hosted a primary care banquet that gave students the opportunity to mingle with residents and primary care doctors at the University Hospital and nearby private practices from internal medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine. If you already have a number of mentors in your community, consider starting a forum where the most-popular mentors can share their mentoring “pearls” with colleagues.
  2. Convene the primary care community in a town hall.  There’s no better way to introduce community members to one another, establish a collective vision for change, and get people to step outside of their silos. Our Stanford chapter recently discovered this during their own town hall which drew students, residents and faculty from all of the primary care fields.
3) Activities to advance clinical innovation or education reform. Check out these sections to find out more.