Written By: Elizabeth Schoenfeldt
Elizabeth is an active member of Marquette ASDA with experience with both the Predental and Legislative Committees who attended Lobby Day 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Lobbying to our state and national legislators is a key component in keeping the dental profession in our hands as practitioners. After all, who is better qualified to be involved in the discussion of laws affecting dentists than dentists themselves? Whether we are aware of them or not, bills are being disputed that could have a great effect on our practices and our patients’ treatment. Lobbying is an important way for our voices to be heard. The more people who speak up, the more momentum we can have. Lobbying may seem daunting at first, but with a little practice and preparation, there is no need to be nervous or hesitant.
Here are a few tips for making lobbying more approachable:
· Understand the process
o Know that you might be meeting with a staffer instead of the legislator. This can be a good thing, as the staffer can have a strong influence on the member. Make sure to give out sheets on the issues you’re talking about, and give the staff member your card so the office can reach out with questions.
· Know your stuff
o Learn the issues! This could be as simple as reading a page or two of background information. Follow up by discussing the issues with colleagues before your meeting to ensure your understanding. It is also important to know your legislators – research their background to anticipate the stance they may take. Emphasize that the ADA and ADPAC are bi-partisan – we are members of the tooth party!
· Go with a group
o Meeting a legislator with a group of dentists and students can be highly effective to show the wide range of support behind what you’re standing for. This allows for various people to discuss parts of the issue and is helpful to make sure you remember all the key points.
· Tell your story
o Make it personal! Showing your passion for a certain issue is key so government officials can understand where you’re coming from and why an issue is so important. It also makes you more memorable!
· Manage your time
o You may not have much time in a meeting; make sure to emphasize key points only. Leaving information in written form will allow the office to review the issues in depth later. The meeting is key for making a good “first impression” of the issue, which can be accomplished by linking a personal connection and underlining its importance to you.
· Follow up
o Before you leave, ask if you can connect about the issues in a few weeks. Stick to your word - make sure to send a letter or email follow-up thanking the office for their time and providing your information should they have any further questions.
· Have fun!
o Getting involved in dental issues on the government side can be a very enjoyable, fulfilling way to learn more about the profession from a different perspective. It is a great way to meet people and make valuable connections and new friends!
Contact Elizabeth at Elizabeth.Schoenfeldt@mu.edu