|US Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, addressing the AMA House of Delegates.|
I am a priest, but the other part of my vocation centers on my work in public policy, which I have been doing since 1998. This work has primarily focused on informing the development of health care policy, conducting health services research, and advocating for physicians and patients. Earlier this week, I attended the Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates in Chicago. The HOD, as it is known, is the policy-making body of the American Medical Association, whose voice often influences the course of federal and state legislation through state houses, Congress, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the White House itself. The members of the HOD are all physicians, who represent every medical and surgical specialty, every state medical society, and every major physician organization. In this way, the HOD is largely representative of US physicians.
|Jesus preaching from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.|
Like many religious people working in secular arenas, I am careful to prevent any particular religious tinge or agenda to influence my management of public policy issues. The reality of living in a pluralistic society is that we must respect a diversity of perspectives and beliefs about religion and its role in the public square. I do, however, allow my humanistic values as a Christian to inspire and inform the understanding of my role as a policy wonk, because I think it's important for our faith to inculcate a sense of responsibility for other peoples' welfare. This is as true now as it was among the fledgling Christian communities of the apostolic era. As I listened to speaker after speaker debate perspectives on issues ranging from the Affordable Care Act and US pharmaceutical shortages to obesity and gun safety, I was assured that religion and policy have something in common. All of this occurred during what was reported to be Chicago's most violent weekend so far this year, with seven killed and three dozen wounded. Knowing that seemed to remind all of us that the perorations at the microphone matter a great deal. They can lead to increased access to health care for some, and barriers to access for others. They can affect the quality of care, patient safety, health care costs, and the social well-being of real people, such as those who were shot over the weekend and brought to Chicago-area hospitals for care.
|Delegates advance to the microphone for debate.|