Dr. Heidi Larson, an alumna of the class of 2017, a Maine family physician, and a primary care consultant, recently shared how she has gotten more involved in state politics as a result of her time in the Executive MBA for Physicians program. She has been focused on addressing the opioid crisis, funding the Maine Diversion Alert Program, and working on the Death with Dignity Act. The latter, which allows terminally ill patients to make their own end of life decisions, was signed into law in June of this year. Below, Dr. Larson explains what it is like to get involved in the legislative process as a physician and why it is important.
How did you get involved with these particular issues?
While I was an EMBA student, I took State Health Policy with Dr. Michael Doonan. As part of his class, I wrote an op ed, reached out to state lawmakers, and prepared and presented a mock legislative testimony. I became passionate about these topics while researching these projects.
Have you testified? Please tell us more about the process of preparing testimony and actually speaking on the floor. What about the larger process of advocating for and get a bill passed?
Yes, I testified as part of my class project assignment. I went to the legislature with my colleagues and each of us presented a slightly different spin on why we supported the Death with Dignity Act. This was in 2017; it took a change in administration in our great State to get this passed!
My testimony in support of funding for the Maine Diversion Alert Program was in writing, so I did not attend a hearing. The grant money ran out, so we asked for $50,000 to continue to provide primary care doctors access to criminal records related to prescription drug abuse. We were successful.
I was able to use the process we were taught in the program, including using brief talking points and quick sound bites. There is power in numbers, so I recommend getting colleagues to help you. We lobbied Senator Susan Collins very hard to expand Medicaid under the ACA. We formed a group, Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare, and met with her personally on several occasions.
Why is it important for physicians to be part of the legislative process?
It is our civic responsibility. We must advocate for our communities and our patients. We have credibility, and we have the smarts and can organize. It is part of giving back.
How has the EMBA for Physicians program helped you in this journey?
The State Health Policy class was instrumental in helping me find my voice. I learned to be succinct and ORGANIZE. Having to present my mock testimony to the class in 7 minutes or less was daunting but a very valuable experience!
How has it otherwise helped you professionally or personally?
I work to support organizations in building strong foundations in primary care as a way to serve our communities more effectively and set ourselves up for success in value-based payment models (like Medicare Advantage). I would not have been able to do this work without assimilating all the knowledge, experience, and collegial support I gained from this MBA program.