Regularly, the Heart Association partners with Jefferson University and their JeffSTARS program. This program highlights young physicians and leaders in medicine who learn about the intersection of advocacy and medicine. Recently, Lakshmi Narayanam, took part in this program. Here is her story.
"As medical students, it is our sole responsibility to learn how to provide excellent care for all of our patients. In addition to medicine, this includes addressing social determinants of health and learning how to be an advocate. Day to day, we see the obstacles and challenges our patients face. We provide them with the available resources and try our best to get them connected to community tools. Helping those on an individual level is called “little a” advocacy. Looking at the big picture, making systemic changes and affecting a whole community is called “big A” advocacy. As a physician in training, my goal is to become proficient in both kinds of advocacy.
I was very excited when presented with the opportunity to gain real life experience in advocacy in Philadelphia. I would finally be able to put the skills I have been learning about to work. It was very intimidating at first, kind of like learning a whole new language. As I re-familiarized myself with how local government works and how bills are passed, I felt a bit more comfortable. In addition, the American Heart Association has been an invaluable community partner by giving me a multitude of experiences. I was able to attend meetings with legislators and city council meetings. This has allowed me to get a better understanding of how the meetings work and everything that is necessary for change to occur. I am inspired by all the initiatives the Heart Association has spearheaded.
Throughout my advocacy elective I have learned how I can positively impact my community as a physician in the future. A large part of what I can do as an advocate is integrating my medical knowledge, patient encounters, and research skills to create material for legislators to read. By organizing the information in an easily digestible manner, the relevant facts are better understood so the legislators can make an informed decision.
The American Heart Association has taught me how to be an advocate for my patients and my community. As a physician, I can utilize the skills I have gained during this experience to continue advocating for my patients in and out of the office."