Advocacy Champions

 April 2021 Advocacy ChampionCindy Firkins Smith, MD

Derrick Lewis

Medical Student, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine

1. Why is being an advocate so important to you?

Because I can. As the son of single mother who served in the military for almost 30 years, I grew up steeped in service. My mother instilled in me that it is a responsibility and honor to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. It's part of the reason I chose to go into medicine. We occupy a place of public trust and responsibility unlike any other profession. We bear witness to the worse and best parts of people's lives. I cannot imagine a career in medicine without a career in advocacy. They are intrinsically linked, because the greatest difference I can make for my current and future patients might very well be outside of healthcare. If the past year has shown us anything, there are structural factors that we can't always address in the clinic, but we can chip away at them as advocates. There is so much positive impact that you can have on patients, families, and their communities. 

2. What health-care related issue(s) have you advocated for over the past year?
Some of the health-care related issues for which I've recently advocated have been improving care for persons experiencing homelessness, increasing the number of physicians from underrepresented backgrounds, increasing equitable access to naloxone, and declaring racism as a public health crisis.

3. What advice would you offer to others who are interested in advocacy?
Remember who you're fighting for. As a healthcare provider, you are a collector of stories. Every day, you can see the impact of policy on people's lives. That is your superpower. Use that to your advantage. While data and evidence will always have a time and place, what drove you to care so much for an issue -- the story of your patient, your family, or even yourself -- can have a powerful impact. Not only will you more effectively sway decision-makers, but you will find more allies join your cause as they witness your passion and sincerity.

Past Advocacy Champions