As for many medical students, the legislative process seemed to me an arcane affair governed by esoteric rules of which I had no grasp. Yet so many of the conversations happening in our state capitols and in Washington, DC could directly affect aspects of my future practice. It wasn’t until recently that I saw ways in which students can influence the decision-making process.
Last week, I had the privilege to witness the Texas Legislature in action. I saw various parts of the legislative process, from how stakeholders can influence legislation and how bills are introduced and amended, to how funding is appropriated.
I first sat in a Senate Finance Committee hearing, which was rather routine until the Senators disagreed over an Affordable Care Act tax item that would have a large impact on the state budget. I then got to see the House of Representatives in action, with its decidedly less formal atmosphere than the Senate.
On Friday morning I accompanied Dr. Moss Hampton, ACOG District XI Chair, to discuss a proposed bill with a new legislator. Later, we sat in a Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition meeting, which brought together stakeholders from different organizations to discuss funding for Texas women’s healthcare and legislative priorities for the current session.
During my time in Austin, I also worked on a glossary of women’s healthcare terms for a non-medical audience. As bills affecting women’s health are discussed, it is vitally important that everyone is on the same page with regards to what the specific language means in a clinical context.
Our focus as medical students is often exceedingly narrow. Our lives revolve around the next exam, the next patient, the next rotation. It is just as important to realize that our responsibilities as future physicians extend beyond the exam room. We must not lose sight of the policy changes that will shape the way we practice medicine and of the ways in which we can act to ensure that these policies allow us to provide the best care for our patients.
Yue Guan is a student at Baylor College of Medicine