UPDATE ON AMA ANNUAL MEETING ADVOCACY
First, many apologies to our blog readers for this delayed update about events in June. If you are on our e-mail list, you will have had a more timely alert since at this time, that is our fastest way of hitting you all. E-mail me at email@example.com if you would prefer to be on the e-mail list.
FRIDA, ADAPT and Not Dead Yet made a really prolonged effort to advocate with the AMA on disability rights over the course of the AMA Annual Meeting, which was held in Chicago in June.
BRIEFLY, OUR CURRENT STATUS: Our advocacy approach is currently aimed in two directions. First, we are advocating with AMA headquarters staff to have them put us in touch with two contacts within AMA headquarters staff, one for legislative advocacy on the Community Choice Act and one for the staff coordinator for the AMA Ethics Group. This request was delivered to Mike Lynch, senior VP for external communications for the AMA. We have yet to hear back from him.
Second, our most public thrust during our advocacy at the Annual Meeting was to get some doctors to work on a resolution to set up a Disability Advisory Committee. Through our public presence there, we were able to let hundreds of doctors know of our cause, and we also worked some contacts so that now we are at the point where some AMA members have come forward to sponsor a resolution and our coalition is working with them to craft the language. This working relationship is a very good sign but of course, we need to see a finished resolution first, then see it passed by the member organization to which the sponsors belong, and THEN and only THEN will it be brought to the full AMA for a vote, so this process is going to take a while. Bear with us all.
We will continue to need our community as we work on these points. We're doing well, you all!!!
THE LONG STORY, FOR YA DIEHARDS:
OK so for those who like action stories, here's what went down. This is edited from the original alert emails to the listserv.
Sunday, June 24: A group of activists from FRIDA, ADAPT and Not Dead Yet "visited" the AMA Annual Meeting at the Chicago Hilton. We fliered up and down Michigan Avenue in front of the Hilton and asked people to sign the paper version of our petition. We collected about 90 signatures. The doctors were easily recognizable via their conference name tags with little ribbons attached to them. Many docs shied away from speaking to us although a few were brave enough to talk with us about why we were there. Probably the most positive thing we got out of the docs was from a medical student who came out to tell us that she had overheard a group talking about whether a particular membership group could bring up a resolution to form a Disability Advisory Committee.
Security: As soon as about four of us stood together, hotel security asked if we were the protesters. We responded that we were not there to protest (it's a technicality...we were making ourselves available for dialogue is another way to put it) and security left. We tried negotiating with security to let us in to talk to people, but naturally that was not going to happen. Ok, so we educated a lot of people, got a feel for what was going down...
A note on sports: This campaign has had a history of scheduling, or trying to schedule, events on major sports days in Chicago. Sunday was no exception...Chicago hosted the US vs. Mexico soccer match, so thousands of (semidrunk) fans were streaming past on their way to Soldier Field. Made things interesting.
Many thanks to: Tim Sullivan, Donna Shaw, Mary Delgado, Monica Heffner, Sharon Lamp,Veronica Martinez, Emylee, Rahnee Patrick, Gary Arnold, Trevor Holmes the Popsicle Boy, Diane Coleman, Gloria Nichols, Nestor, Lluvia and Sol, who was our tiniest activist but did a great job blocking the sidewalk by crawling in random directions.
Monday, June 25: Amber put on a suit and delivered copies of the online Disability Advisory Committee petition to the registration desk at the AMA. This took about five minutes. The petitions were delivered to the CEO, the incoming and outgoing presidents of the AMA, and the chair of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA). Chicago advocates also determined that we needed to go back to the AMA to keep pressing our demands, so throughout Monday we organized.
Tuesday, June 26: Tuesday morning, Amber received an email from the chair of CEJA, Dr. Sade, who told us that he is stepping down as CEJA head and Dr. Mark Levine of Colorado will be the next chair. Amber contacted Dr. Levine with our agenda and a request to work together. Tuesday afternoon however was our big planned action. Our Tuesday action almost didn't happen. We had arranged to meet at 4 pm. At 3 pm, clouds gathered and we heard thunder, then giant flashes of lightning and then a WALL of rain came down on Chicago. We stuck to our plan and did not call off the action. Some of our group were not able to attend because of the rain, but eventually we collected five people at a local sandwich shop around the corner from the Hilton. We were: Mike Ervin, Larry Biondi, Alva Rodriguez, Sarah Triano, and Amber. Rene Luna joined us later in our action for a total of six. After gathering we headed over to the Hilton's south entrance. Amazingly, we were all able to enter the hotel, find the elevators, and make our way to the second floor without interference. When we arrived on the second floor, we found groups of doctors in evening wear getting ready for the inauguration ceremony of the new AMA President, Dr. Ronald M. Davis, at 5 pm. Amber (sorry to say) momentarily forgot the floor plan of the ceremony and we ended up walking left instead ofright, barging in on the professional photo op with all the AMA officers. The doctors looked startled but did not approach us. Amber recognized and approached the outgoing president and asked him to get us someone who would work on a Disability Advisory Committee. He passed us off to a staffer, a woman with the last name of Ferrara, who told us to wait a second and then apparently called security. Security descended upon us to try to talk us away, but after some haggling the group simply began heading towards theceremony (we figured out where it was). Amber, Mike and Larry made it all the way to the entrance of theballroom, where we negotiated for some time with security. Security did not know how to handle us and kinda lost their heads...one guy bumped Amber's breast and she gave him hell on that. They were attempting to physically block us from entering. All the while, dressed-up docs were passing by looking at the scene. Alva, Sarah and Rene were haggling with security by the elevators. Eventually, security brought down their chief. Mike, Larry and Amber negotiated with the security chief for a while and eventually came to a settlement where the chief would get an AMA staffer to talk to us. We got parked just outside the foyer to theballroom...docs were still pouring. Sarah, Rene and Alva joined us. The chief came back and said the organizer of the Annual Meeting said they would try to secure a meeting with AMA staffers for the next morning at 10 am. He would not name this organizer. He said that because of the ceremony, no one could confirm anything till 8:30 pm or so. We said we would stay until we got a confirmation. The chief said that if we did that, he would have us arrested. We asked for a minute to consider theproposal. We conferred. We had agreed not to get arrested, but we would hold him to this promise and show up at 10 am the next morning regardless of what they said. We told the chief this and he gave us his cell number. We then left and hung around outside the Hilton, where Sarah Watkins joined us and got the rundown.
Later that night, the chief called Mike Ervin, apologized, and said the AMA would not meet. Mike and Amber then recruited to see who could go at 10am the next morning and demand a meeting anyway.
Wednesday, June 27: Rahnee Patrick, Sarah Watkins and Amber met at a coffee shop to head in to the AMA at 10 am. We decided we would request to talk with someone at the front desk to get us the organizer of the event. We went in, made a request of the staffer, who we think then called security. Doctors were pouring out of a conference room on their way to depart the convention. We decided to go against the flow and seek a staffer in the room. We made it almost to the elevator when security came up with about eight people. We reiterated that we had made a request of the staffer and it was not honored. Amber demanded to talk to the security chief. The chief showed up and we reiterated our request for a meeting. Rahnee did an excellent job of stating very forcefully why the AMA needed to meet with us. We also reiterated that we did not have to be doing this this morning, that the AMA was fully aware we were going to show and could have simply met with us and avoided all of the security hassle. We came to an agreement with the chief that he would seek the organizer and try to get someone to talk with us and schedule a meeting. However we would have to wait outside. We agreed to wait outside, at which point Mary Delgado joined us. Doctors were waiting for their rides and giving us the hairy eyeball. The chief came back and said he had spoken with someone but needed to get more time with them. He went back in, then came out with Senior VP of Communications Mike Lynch and another AMA staff person. Lynch was at our meeting in February with the AMA. We reviewed what had happened that morning and what we wanted (yes, we talked about the Community Choice Act). They wanted to know why we were bothering with the actions if passing a resolution was the way things worked. We pointed out that they have headquarters staff on legislative policy and ethics who don't necessarily follow AMA protocols for running programs. We wanted a phone number for a legislative staff person, and a phone number for someone we could work with from the Ethics Group. Rahnee and Sarah provided testimony about why our partnership is important. Lynch and his staff member heard us out, we had a back and forth, Amber said she wanted the contact info by the end of the days ince we've been waiting six months, Lynch said he couldn't promise that and then he left. So we are at that.
However bear in mind as we stated before, we are working to get some AMA members to sponsor a resolution!!! So keep up the awareness campaign out there among doctors and the disability community!
WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO BODILY INTEGRITY
WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE OUR EXPERTISE BE HEARD
WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO SHAPE MEDICAL PROTOCOL AND POLICY THAT AFFECTS US
WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE LIVES IN THE COMMUNITY, ACCEPTED FOR WHO WE ARE
And that, friends, you know it's where we gotta go.