Over one hundred pediatric providers, residents, medical students, educators, advocates, public health officials and community partners gathered for the second annual New York State Pediatric Advocacy Conference on March 10-11 of 2014, hosted at Albany Medical Center. Continuing the momentum from the inaugural conference, these diverse stakeholders channeled their common dedication to the health of children in New York State into two days of inspiring presentations, discussions, planning, training, and legislative advocacy.
Keynote speaker Chris Kus, MD, MPH (Leonard P. Rome visiting professor) set the tone with his pediatric grand rounds lecture “The Intersection of Public Health and Pediatrics: Why is This Important? As Associate Medical Director of the Division of Family Health for the New York State Department of Health, he challenged the audience to think beyond the medical home into the “community home.” Dr. Kus reviewed the definition of Community Pediatrics and highlighted ways to participate in the national discussion on Maternal and Child Health. He also stressed the role of Community Pediatrics regarding the New York State Prevention Agenda 2013-2017. Dr. Kus stressed that Community Pediatrics must be actively involved in the National Health Reform effort. (https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/8075.pdf).
The message carried through to presentations from Jeff Kaczorowski, MD of The Children’s Agenda (based in Rochester), Bridget Walsh of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy (based in Albany), and Dina Lieser, MD of Docs for Tots (Nassau University Medical Center), along with further discussion from Dr. Kus; all four outlined facets of “Priorities for Children’s Health in New York State: 2014.”
Pairing theory with practice, the morning’s invigorating discussions were followed by presentations from several medical trainees who shared their inspiring projects addressing various disparities in child health outcomes: Catherine Agricola, MD (Rochester); Nicole Betancourt, MD and Terez Yonan, DO (Albany); Laurie Gordon, MD on behalf of Rachel Reed, MD (NY Hospital Queens); Thuy Le-Rathell, DO (Albany); and Christine SanGiovanni, MD (Mount Sinai). These examples of advocacy in action segued into the poster session with more presenters from across the state and beyond.
The afternoon was filled with various skills sessions catering to the three facets of the NYSPAC mission. Andy Aligne, MD, MPH, CappyCollins, MD, and Sara Horstmann, MD led the group on Project Development; Jenn O’Connor (Council for a Strong America) and David Clark, MD led the Legislative Advocacy session; and Jeff Kaczorowski, Dina Lieser, Leora Mogilner, MD (Mount Sinai) and Marc Lavender, MD (Rochester) led the session on Community Pediatrics Program Development.
Day two focused action and implementation. The day started with a panel discussion on the “Key Steps to a Successful Project”. Followed by a discussion on integrating public health, medicine, and community led by Bridget Walsh, Jenn O’Connor, and Abby Atkins (Health Resources in Action).
Building on this foundation, small mentorship sessions lead by Andy Aligne, Sara Horstmann, Cappy Collins, Jeff Kaczorowski, Marc Lavender, Leora Mogilner, Dina Lieser, and Laurie Gordon provided an opportunity for trainees, community leaders, and pediatricians to foster skills on project development, pediatric training curricula, and community partnerships.
Highlighting the importance of communication, Sara Horstmann, MD led a breakout session on mastering your advocacy message with the media. While, Ajay Major outlined best methods during his talk on integrating social media in our advocacy efforts.
Bringing together the lessons and skills learned over the last two days, on the unique opportunities available in the host city of Albany, NY, Elie Ward and Jenn O’Connor prepared the group to meet with state legislators by highlighted strategies to effectively promote specific advocacy issues. The conference culminated with hill visits to promote The Child Safe Products Act and The Centers of Excellence in Children’s Environmental Health Act.
Cappy Collins, a Pediatric Environmental Health Fellow at Mount Sinai Hospital reflects, “The NYSPAC mission covers three domains: training, projects and policy. All of us—by which I mean health professionals, trainees, community organizations, educators, government officials, et al.—we all want to improve the health and well-being of children. Our combined expertise can go a long way, both in communities and across the state. We can train our colleagues, we can implement effective programs and we can endorse legislation with a unified voice.”
Steve Hicks, a 2nd year resident and CATCH recipient from SUNY Upstate, recounts “I found the presentations of community advocacy programs at the local level to be the most interesting and engaging part of the conference. I enjoyed the presentation on Albany’s community farmer’s market and Rochester’s Cyclopedia program with the boys and girls club. Each of these endeavors had pearls that I took back to Syracuse to apply to my own youth program. The conference was also valuable as my colleagues from Syracuse and I got feedback on how to implement a resident community advocacy program at SUNY Upstate.”
Sara Kopple, an attending physician from New York Presbyterian- Cornell Campus, commented, “The 2nd NYSPAC conference was a wonderful experience. As a new attending, it was inspiring to see all the amazing work out there by my peers. After all the chaos of residency, the conference helped me to cycle back to why I went into medicine and pediatrics in the first place. It helped me to realize that I could incorporate activism into by career and motivated me to get involved in existing organizations and develop new programs.”
And Kristina Emeghebo, a first-year resident at Nassau added, “The pediatrician has a huge role in public health almost by definition. It is our job to improve the health (not just the physical health) and well-being of the youth, and since the development of children is almost totally determined by their surroundings and their environment, it is part of our job as pediatricians to improve the world around the child.”
We look forward to continuing the great work throughout the year and seeing everyone again at the 3rd annual conference in 2015!