On September 16, the anesthesiology department at the University of California Davis Medical Center received a visit from Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and her Legislative Director Angela Pontes. This provided an excellent opportunity to educate Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry about the specialty of anesthesiology and showcase the central role our department plays in patient care and hospital functions.
The opportunity to forge this relationship with this lawmaker resulted from a visit on behalf of the CSA by Dr. Christina Gutierrez and myself to Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry’s district office in Davis, California earlier this summer. At that meeting, we pointed out to the Assemblymember and her team how the CSA proactively confronted the opioid addiction crisis and showed them the CSA patient education video entitled “Managing Your Pain After Surgery”.
We also explained the need for physician-led anesthesia care, the challenges with out-of-network billing policies, and the necessity of having a separate, trained, and independently licensed anesthesia providers, not the dentists, responsible for administering anesthesia and monitoring the patient in dental offices. We shared background information on CSA’s efforts to recruit the next generation of Californians to work in healthcare through our partnership with “Project Lead the Way” on several high school campuses.
At that district meeting, we invited Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry to tour our department at the UC Davis Medical Center in order to provide more first-hand experience and offered her an opportunity to see our specialty “in action.” She was excited and took us up on the offer!
Bryce Docherty and Vanessa Cajina from KP Public Affairs, CSA’s lobbying and PR firm, were also present at the tour. It was a privilege for us to host them and to show them in person what our anesthesiologists do every day. Both lobbyists have been helping us tremendously to make our voices heard in the Legislature for a long time. They also provided valuable support in preparation for the meeting with the Assemblymember so that we could effectively deliver our key messages, and represent the anesthesia specialty in a way that would resonate with political audiences.
Two of our UC Davis anesthesia residents, Reihaneh Forghany and Patrick Beagan, accompanied us during the tour, which was a great opportunity for the CSA to involve younger members of our profession in this important process of legislative advocacy.
Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry and Angela Pontes were very interested in learning what anesthesiologists do, and how we help to solve current problems in healthcare. We showed them the pre-operative area where anesthesiologists assess patients to make sure that they are fit for surgery, and where they plan each patient’s perioperative care. We toured the trauma room where we pointed out our advanced level of preparedness to immediately take care of accident victims at all hours of the day. I assured the Assemblymember that we as healthcare workers are very grateful for the generous financial support that hospitals receive from the community. This support makes possible for things like prehospital helicopter retrieval, fluid warmers for massive transfusion, and the ready availability of very large quantities of blood products.
We also took our visitors to a cardiac operating room where they had the opportunity to observe a spontaneously beating heart through a sternotomy incision. Of course, all waivers and confidentiality agreements for safety and privacy were completed prior to visiting the live operation. The visitors could also see the heart beating on transesophageal echocardiography. We showed them that we have video cameras in the operating rooms that allow us to know what is going on in every room and help us know when we are needed in a particular location.
Healthcare policy is constantly under consideration and debate in the political process, and as anesthesiologists we must make sure that we have a seat at the table to help prevent unhelpful or counterproductive policies from becoming law. We can provide background and context regarding the necessity or impact of certain requirements, their potential influence on our practice, and how they might affect patient outcomes. Seizing upon opportunities like this for meetings or tours can help to forge lasting relationships with lawmakers and assist them in passing helpful legislation that will benefit the specialty as a whole.
As the newly elected Director for CSA’s District 1, I work in partnership with our elected district delegates and other CSA members to develop relationships with members of the State Assembly and State Senate whose districts are included in District 1 boundaries. District 1 extends from the Sacramento county line in the south, to the Oregon border in the north. This new arrangement is part of CSA’s recent redistricting effort, which established eight geographic districts (down from 14) - each of which includes five state senate districts and approximately 10 assembly districts.
CSA leadership chose to directly align our geographic districts with legislative districts because we know that legislators care what their constituents think – and developing “on the ground” relationships with our state lawmakers is a very important way to support and complement CSA’s lobbying efforts at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Recent membership research showed that legislative advocacy at the state level is our members’ top priority –changing the way CSA is structured, governed, and organized was a strategic way to enhance our long-term advocacy agenda, and increase our ability to effectively represent our members to policymakers.
The same redistricting effort also established six practice forums, organized by the type/size of the individual member’s practice group and/or stage in his/her career. Individual CSA members can choose which practice forum they’d like to join – Small/Solo, Medium, Large, Academic, Early Career and, of course, In Training (Residents and Fellows). The practice forums were established because our members’ number two concern is to obtain support from CSA to more effectively manage their practice environment. CSA Practice Forum Directors and Delegates are responsible for developing two-way communication with members and practice group leaders to identify issues and priorities for CSA to develop focus and deliver member value.
Additional information about CSA’s redistricting can be found here.
If you’d like to become more involved supporting CSA’s advocacy efforts at the district level, please contact CSA Executive Director Dave Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These opinions are my own and not the views of the University of California.