Welcome and Introduction
In this Section:
Thank you for taking the time to lend your support to the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery (ASCRS)’s eyeContact grassroots advocacy program. Whether you are a seasoned political pro or just starting to consider getting involved, being a grassroots advocate has the ability to transform not only your personal and professional lives, but the community around you. Welcome to the start of your journey!
ASCRS grassroots advocates (a.k.a. eyeContacts) are trusted and effective voices for ensuring specialty physicians’ viewpoints are heard by policymakers at all levels of government. As members of a highly regulated profession, ophthalmologists ignore legislative and regulatory issues at their own peril. When you become an eyeContact, you join an enthusiastic group committed to providing the highest level of care and ensuring patients have access to the care they need.
With an increasingly polarized political system and the day-to-day demands of work and family, it can seem daunting to become an advocate. ASCRS understands those concerns and has designed the eyeContact program to fit in with your schedule, allowing you to do as much or as little as you can manage. This guide is designed to help you decide the best way for you to be involved.
Take this opportunity to do something not only for the profession, but also for you. Being a good citizen and speaking for your profession are important parts of the decision to advocate, but don’t forget there’s something in this for you, too. Seize the chance to meet new people such as your Senators and Congressmen and to have new experiences. Not only will you be broadening your horizons, you will be helping advocate for our profession. This is a responsibility that we all must share.
Thanks for your consideration,
Brock K. Bakewell, MD
Chairman, ASCRS Government Relations Committee
2. Introduction to the eyeContact Program: How to Use This Guide
What is Grassroots Advocacy? Like many national organizations, one of ASCRS’ key priorities is to advocate for a public policy environment favorable to our members. A major part of that is to facilitate a relationship between members and their elected officials though grassroots advocacy. Professional lobbyists play an important role in identifying potential issues, but it is the individual members of an association that are the most influential advocates. Elected officials are more eager to hear from actual voters in their districts and states.
Policymakers Want to Hear from You! As physician advocates, eyeContacts start out with an incredible advantage. Not only do legislators want to hear from their own constituents, they are most eager to hear from experienced professionals who are among the most likely to vote. Your profession comes with built-in credibility. When you pick up the phone to call your legislator, send an email, or step into his or her office, you already have his or her attention; this guide will help you learn what to do with it.
Three Ways to Participate. Not everyone has the same ability or amount of time to commit to being an eyeContact; some eyeContacts may want to start slowly and hone their skills gradually. Whatever time and effort you can give is helpful to ASCRS. We have organized this guide into three basic stages, beginner, intermediate, and advanced, and arranged the tasks and activities to build on each other with increasing intensity and effort.
What You Will Learn. This guide will help you gain a basic understanding of techniques employed in grassroots advocacy. The guide will walk you through how to contact your legislators, build relationships, and extend your influence throughout your community. We have tried to make this comprehensive, but as always, things change, or you might need a little extra advice. ASCRS government relations staff are always available to assist you in your efforts.
This is a Guidebook, Not a Law Book. In politics, the circumstances of the issue drives the tools used and strategy employed. Just because you are a new eyeContact, do not feel that you cannot employ some of the advanced topics discussed here. Similarly, even the most experienced advocate should not forget to make sure the basics are covered. Think of something that is not included in this guide? That is OK! The best weapon is the one your opponent does not have. Be creative in your advocacy, and do not forget to share with your fellow eyeContacts!