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Advocacy is increasingly being recognized as a core element of medical professionalism and efforts are underway to incorporate advocacy training into graduate and undergraduate medical school curricula. While limited data exist to quantify physician attitudes toward advocacy, even less has been done to assess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of future physicians. The purpose of this study was to assess students’ experiences and attitudes toward legislative advocacy, cutting out using a convience sample.
A paper survey based on previously validated surveys was administered to a convenience sample of premedical and medical student participants attending a National Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, in March 2011, both before and after their advocacy experiences. Responses were anonymous and either categorical ( or ordinal, using a 5-point Likert scale. Data were analyzed statistically to evaluate demographics and compare changes in pre- and post-experience attitude and skills.
Data from 108 pre-advocacy and 50 post-advocacy surveys were analyzed yielding a response rate of 46.3%. Following a single advocacy experience, subjects felt they were more likely to contact their legislators about healthcare issues (p=0.03), to meet in person with their legislators (p<0.01), and to advocate for populations' health needs (p=0.04). Participants endorsed an increased perception of the role of a physician advocate extending beyond individual patients (p=0.03). Participants disagreed with the statement that their formal curricula adequately covered legislative healthcare advocacy. Additionally, respondents indicated that they plan to engage in legislative advocacy activities in the future (p<0.01).
A one-time practical advocacy experience has a positive influence on students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes towards legislative advocacy. Practical experience is an important method of furthering medical education in advocacy and further research is necessary to assess its impact in a broader population.