Guest Blog: Growing Together: How to Use Your Personal Experience to Get Others Involved with ACOG

As a District officer, I sometimes call myself a “human highlighter.” Why? Because that’s the easiest and most effective method I’ve found to get others more involved in ACOG. For me, being a human highlighter means drawing others’ attention to ACOG by pointing out meaningful experiences and events and telling others what’s great about them. By encouraging others to get more involved in ACOG and giving them concrete ways to do it, I’ve found myself getting even more involved with ACOG while also helping my District grow! If you’re looking for more ways to get involved with ACOG and motivate others to do the same, read on for some tips that my District and I have found useful.

In order to be successful, efforts to get people more involved in ACOG must be purposeful. One of my favorite strategies to get others more involved is to give them the opportunity to experience the events that got me so excited about being involved in ACOG. I encourage others to become resident reporters so that they can attend the Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting; apply for funding to attend different local and national meetings; and ensure that when our District puts on an event in our community, everyone who attends knows it’s an ACOG event. I’ve seen firsthand that when my fellow ACOG members experience ACOG events for themselves, they become more excited about being involved with ACOG, too!

ACOG events are a great way to get people outside of ACOG to support our organization and to spread the word about the important work ACOG is doing. In Wisconsin, there are many areas, communities, and conversations that I don’t have access to. But when we bring an ACOG event to a local community and spread the word about ACOG and the work we’re doing to everyone who attends, we can extend our reach significantly by giving people information to bring back to their communities.

Another way to help draw more people to ACOG is to be more purposeful about increasing diversity. In order to bring all kinds of people into ACOG and show them that ACOG is for them, they need to see people like themselves not only in Sections and Districts but also in Section and District leadership positions. If you’re in a leadership position and are looking for other members to bring up through the ranks, make sure you’re looking not just at the outspoken, easily visible people in the front row, but at the people in the corners of the room, who you may not know as well (or at all!) but who can bring their professional knowledge and their unique, diverse perspective to the table and enrich your discussions. Diversity doesn’t just happen; it needs to be cultivated intentionally and consciously. And when diversity is consciously cultivated, we’re all better for it, and ACOG becomes stronger as an organization.

One thing I’d ask everyone to understand and share in order to get more people involved is our advocacy. ACOG has the potential to accomplish incredible feats through advocacy not only because of the expertise and passion of our members but also because of the Government Relations staff at ACOG national, who understand the way that Congress works and can help us make real progress for our specialty and our patients. My time with ACOG has given me many chances to learn how our government works and how our advocacy can make a difference, even when things seem hopeless. I recall leaving the 2018 fly-in in tears after a meeting with a representative that my Junior Fellow companions and I thought went terribly, thinking that the bill we discussed would never pass. To my surprise, it did! During my Gellhaus Fellowship, I had the chance to ask the Government Relations team what had happened. Their answer? ACOG did! Talking to passionate, knowledgeable ACOG members and then discussing that new knowledge with other representatives had changed our representative’s mind and allowed ACOG to get a huge win. If others could have that same experience, I’m confident that they’d become more enthusiastic and more hopeful about the legislative process and feel more motivated to advocate for policies that ACOG supports.

In the end, giving others the opportunity to become ACOG fans is the best way to spread the word about ACOG and get everyone—both inside and outside of the organization—involved. I encourage all of you to advocate for your fellow members to attend more ACOG events for themselves and consider putting on or volunteering to put on ACOG events for their local community. When others see the benefits ACOG offers and the potential for change that ACOG has, they become more enthusiastic about ACOG itself—and you will, too!

Talia Coney, MD
District VI Junior Fellow Chair

Zika Provider Action Week

The White House has declared this week Zika Provider Action Week. This call to action could not come at a better time. The Zika virus has occupied our profession and our patients nearly non-stop since news of it broke last fall. There is no doubt that Zika presents a very real concern to patients and challenge to health care providers. With the discovery of virus transmission by mosquitoes here in the United States, many of us are faced with the even more real possibility of treating patients with potential or confirmed exposure.

As ob-gyns, we are on the front lines of patients’ concerns about Zika. As each new finding is played out in the news, our patients call or come in looking for answers to help their understanding of the risk, and more often than not, assuage their fears. Unfortunately, in the instance of Zika, we too are often scrambling for knowledge, seeking elusive answers from research institutions and government agencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has done an admirable job working quickly and efficiently to assess, address, and educate the American public about the Zika outbreak.

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What is the next generation of healthcare?

As ACOG President, I feel a great responsibility to help our members and our specialty lead and evolve in these changing and often challenging times. To do so, we must focus on building a strong foundation upon the rigorous standards of excellence that guide us every day. One of the things I most enjoy about membership in ACOG is the community. With a central goal at hand, superior care for women and families, we come together to learn from, support, and develop alongside our peers. As we face more constant, direct, and often negative forces beyond our exam rooms, our community has another imperative: advocacy.

By cultivating the knowledge and capability of our existing and newest members, we ensure the future of our profession and the patients we serve. In part, this requires legislative and political advocacy by all of our Fellows and Junior Fellows. We must lend the diversity and depth of our community’s knowledge and expertise to help reach safe and sustainable outcomes on issues regarding women’s healthcare.

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“The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”

Tom Gellhaus, MD ACOG's 67th President

Tom Gellhaus, MD
ACOG’s 67th President

“The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” ~Jonas Salk

This past Tuesday I was awarded a great opportunity to do more: I became ACOG’s 67th President. As the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more and be empowered to make a difference in health care.

When I began my presidency, I ventured that we can make a difference in the next generation of health care through three main initiatives: global health, advocacy and new resident education models.

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Yes, “The Times, They Are A-changin”… but so are we!!

“The Times They Are A-changin”…  That’s how I began my presidential inaugural address last year, and guess what? They are still changing!  This theme underscored virtually everything we did this past year. Let me very briefly review where we are…

We began the year with a major legislative victory in that the SGR was repealed, and in its place is a more complicated program affecting physician payment, MACRA.  I am finishing my year by appointing a work group of experts to better understand the new law and help translate it for our members. Stay tuned on that front.

Numerous issues arose during the year, ranging from over-the-counter contraception, home births, Planned Parenthood, TRAP laws, midwifery, Zika and many more. We have such an amazing staff in Practice and Communications…we were able to issue timely and meaningful statements about all of these issues and keep informed debate going on the national level about these and other important topics.

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Reinventing the Wheel. Technology Should Help Us Engage Our Patients…AND Ourselves

You asked and we listened. To better serve our Members, today marks the launch of ACOG’s Estimated Due Date Calculator (EDD Calculator). It’s an easy-to-use, EDDCalcstraightforward, free app that is strictly based on joint recommendations from ACOG, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) for determining pregnancy due dates.

Notably, the EDD Calculator is the only app of its kind that reconciles the discrepancy in due dates between the first ultrasound and the date of the last menstrual period. It also has an assisted reproductive technology (ART) component to help health care providers with patients who undergo embryo transfer.

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What APHA’s New Standards Mean to Ob-Gyns

Earlier this month at its Annual Meeting and Exposition, the American Public Health Association (APHA) adopted 18 new policy statements ranging from contraception access to preventing prescription painkiller abuse. Although they go beyond the Pap test and pelvic exam, many of the new standards are directly related to ob-gyns as population health is closely linked to our specialty. It’s important for us to pay attention to these related issues so, I’d like to take a moment to review a few of them here. Please note that these are only some of the women’s health focused policy positions.

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“For our patients, our specialty and our organization…”

When I assumed the presidency in May, I promised to work on behalf of our patients, our doctors and ACOG. Not quite halfway through a very busy year, I wanted to give you a progress report on my activities.

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Get More from Your ACOG Membership

Earlier this month I received an email announcing the ACOG application for Committee service and I got to thinking about all of the exciting and different ways members can get involved with our organization. I also started to reminisce about my start with ACOG as a member of the Connecticut Section Advisory Council, many years ago. About the same time, I attended several Congressional Leadership Conferences and began to get a feel for the value of ACOG as the only organization that really represents ob-gyns across the country, as well as the patients we serve. That was in the late 1980’s, which started me down the path of holding various ACOG leadership positions; about 10 years later, I became section chair and a member of the District I Advisory Council, ultimately leading to the District I chair role in 2006.

Every step of the way, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people from an ever-increasing geographical radius. As District I chair, I served with the other District chairs on ACOG’s Executive Board. At the national level, it works in many ways like it does at the section level. There is work to do, and if you want to be involved, you raise your hand and volunteer. ACOG has been a great way to give something back to the specialty that I love and the profession that I chose as my life’s work.  So I continued to volunteer, worked on various committees, task forces and work groups from time to time, and became more involved than ever. I had the honor of being chosen for the office of secretary, my first national office, and served in that role for three years, learning more about ACOG, and myself. The rest is history as they say: before I knew it, I was President!

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ACOG: Our Strength Is in Our Members

Serving as ACOG President is indeed an honor. It is also a significant responsibility involving accountability to the 58,000 members who pay dues to our organization. We are the premier organization advocating for obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health care. As ACOG members, we are above all things dedicated to striving for and preserving our reputation of excellence, our credibility and our integrity in the pursuit of the best in women’s health care delivery.

This has been an interesting and exciting year for me to say the very least. The meetings, the travel, the interactions with other medical societies, and advocacy efforts were all expected. Yes, there have been challenges, conflicts, resolutions, and clearly, many positive accomplishments. However, I did not expect that almost every waking hour would include some activity related to ACOG.

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