Guest Blog: Unique Opportunities for Residents and Early Career Psychiatrists to Engage with Government
*This piece was originally published December 2021 in issue 21 of the World Child & Adolescent Psychiatry journal and was edited for clarity in February 2022.
As part of PRMS’ ongoing commitment to mental health, we are pleased to feature Mandar Jadhav, MD – child and adolescent psychiatrist, fellow representative of the Indo-American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychiatric Association Foundation Jeanne Spurlock Congressional Fellow – as a guest blogger this month. Dr. Jadhav reflects on his experience working in a U.S. Senator’s office and highlights opportunities for residents and early career psychiatrists to become involved in legislative advocacy efforts.
Psychiatry is unique among the medical specialties in how deeply our work intersects with the education system, social mores, laws, and regulation. Often a decision – made by a school board or an insurance administrator, in a legislative chamber or a courthouse – has wide-ranging implications for psychiatrists and the people we serve. These decisions can be influenced by parents, teachers, lawyers, economists, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, etc. Senior psychiatrists, too, have had an impact on these decisions over the years by writing about mental health issues, engaging in public speaking, publishing research data, and informing lawmakers via our professional organizations’ government affairs staff. For many psychiatry residents and early career psychiatrists (ECPs) who are enthusiastic about advocating for systemic improvements to the mental health system, however, opportunities may seem limited to being involved in the occasional advocacy day or project.
Given this limited set of opportunities, I consider myself lucky to have been given a chance to experience the legislative process from the inside. Right after completing my child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship, I was selected as one of two Congressional fellows by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Foundation. This year-long program was established in honor of Dr. Jeanne Spurlock, who was a ground-breaking advocate for child and minority mental health priorities, and a former deputy medical director of the APA. The goal of this program is to help psychiatry residents or ECPs expand their knowledge of federal legislation pertaining to healthcare and to support the mental health policy endeavors of the offices in which they are placed. In my case, I was placed in the office of a U.S. Senator who is a leader in advancing mental health priorities. The other Spurlock fellow was placed in the office of a Member of the House who has similarly championed mental health on Capitol Hill. How each office approaches specific issues varies, but their missions are similar—improving access to quality mental health services for all Americans.
Some of the mental health efforts I have contributed to in my office include improving maternal health, enhancing care for children with autism, providing safer care for nursing home residents, protecting privacy and promoting health records interoperability, increasing access to telehealth services, streamlining licensure, enforcing parity standards, and making healthcare financing more efficient. I have also had the privilege of learning about other social, economic, and political issues of national import from the stellar Congressional staff that serves in my office, and from the elected official himself. My input has always been welcomed where my professional training and experience can be useful. Now about halfway through this experience, I am even more enthused about transforming mental health services for the better by continuing engagement with government after my fellowship ends. I have heard similar positive reflections from my counterpart on the House side.
The Spurlock fellowship, while excellent, is not the only avenue for psychiatry residents and ECPs to get an immersive government experience in Washington, D.C. Last year, an early career child and adolescent psychiatrist was selected as a White House fellow. To my knowledge, this is the first time a psychiatrist has been selected for this program. He is gaining a different perspective on government than my own, as he is placed with an office in the administrative branch focused on immigration issues. Given the doors that have opened in Washington through the work done by previous Spurlock fellows, and now by the first psychiatrist White House fellow, we should expect more such opportunities to be accessible to psychiatry residents and ECPs going forward. Getting involved with the legislative advocacy efforts of the APA district branch they belong to is the first place to start.
Mandar Jadhav, MD
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Fellow Representative of the Indo-American Psychiatric Association, and APAF Jeanne Spurlock Congressional Fellow
- Jeanne Spurlock Congressional Fellowship [Internet]. American Psychiatric Association. Available from: https://www.psychiatry.org/residents-medical-students/residents/fellowships/available-apa-apaf-fellowships/spurlock-congressional-fellowship
- White House Appoints 2021-2022 Class of White House Fellows [Internet]. The White House Briefing Room. Available from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/18/white-house-appoints-2021-2022-class-of-white-house-fellows
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are personal and not endorsed by any organization or employer.
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