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Importance of Medical Advocacy

Posted by Neethu Putta on August 6, 2010

On the surface, nuclear weapons, safe energy, environmental toxins, and other PSR issues may not seem like medical concerns. When I introduce myself as an intern for PSR and explain PSR’s mission, most people question the relation between nuclear weapons and medicine—this is the fallacy I want to address, and one of the reasons SPSR has created the student activist toolkit.

The job of a health professional doesn’t end at the clinic or the operating table. It extends beyond individual patients; it includes the well being of humanity and the health of the planet. As a health professional, advocating for the right medical policies that protect humanity is key to achieving the broader respects of your role in society—preventing what we cannot cure.

“Physicians have an obligation to consider the entire public as their patient.”
– Marie Kim, President of SPSR University of Iowa

Physicians are trained to be health experts. This is where PSR is critically relevant.

PSR is the intersection where medicine and advocacy meet. The medical advocate has the potential to be the strongest voice in our efforts to reach zero nuclear weapons, prevent climate change, and switch to more sustainable and safe forms of energy.  Nuclear warfare has a litany of medical consequences, with the most obvious being death, as well as after effects such as cancer-causing radiation. Nuclear power can also emit radiation. Environmental toxins can cause premature aging, cancer, reproductive harm as well as other horrific health consequences. Based on these catastrophic consequences, PSR advocates for nuclear disarmament, green policies that discredit nuclear power and policies that handle removing harmful environmental toxins from consumer goods.

Thus, to promote the importance of medical advocacy for students, SPSR leadership has created a student activist toolkit. This toolkit is dedicated to teaching students how to be successful PSR medical advocates. It serves as a guide on how to lobby, contact their Congresspersons to talk to them about the importance of PSR issues, how to write a LTE (letter to the editor), and how to organize their chapter. The toolkit includes examples as well as best practices, and is very interactive to encourage students to practice building these skills in the toolkit itself. The toolkit also includes how to start and lead an active, strong SPSR chapter. This section was created with input from SPSR chapter presidents, so its content is especially relevant.

The student activist toolkit is a key step in pushing forward the medical advocacy movement. Medical students need to see that physicians can, and should be, advocates too! Physicians are responsible for protecting and saving lives with their knowledge of medicine. The reach of a health professional impacts the world—we can start impacting the world today by being vocal medical advocates by trying to prevent what we cannot cure.


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