By Glen R. Finney, MD, AAN.com Advocacy Editor
Look for blog postings from me this weekend, as I participate in the 2010 Donald M. Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum. In addition to providing my onsite views of what's happening at the Forum, I plan on uploading video interviews with other Forum attendees, in order to give our readers a taste of the Palatucci experience. Below are my preparatory thoughts on the Forum—and neurology advocacy in general—as I get ready for the event. —Glen R. Finney
I first encountered an Academy advocacy initiative in the form of an announcement seeking Neurology on the Hill (NOH). As a senior resident, the cost for travel and lodgings seemed prohibitive, but I was compelled to join other neurologists in the opportunity to advocate for neurology on Capitol Hill. In an example of "where there's a will, there's financial support," I discovered that the Academy would cover most of my expenses. (Currently, NOH participants pay a nominal fee of $50.)
While attending Neurology on the Hill, I learned of another Academy program, the Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum (known to insiders as "PALF"), where I could go to hone my advocacy skills. Without a second thought, I signed up to attend the Forum.
I had never imagined how important my Palatucci Forum experience would be, both to my career and to my role as a neurology advocate. During the Forum weekend, I found myself in the presence of other neurologists fired by passion—passion for what we do, and passion for making things better.
I never had the opportunity to meet Donald M. Palatucci, MD, FAAN, in whose honor the Advocacy Leadership Forum is named. However, since participating in the Forum that year, I have met many of his colleagues, friends, and family, and heard of his magnitude as an advocate.
I also met the Academy staff, and witnessed for myself their wealth of experience and willingness to help make our advocacy goals achievable. The Academy was, and is, serious about making meaningful change to the practice of neurology and care for our patients.
The weekend events included training sessions on topics such as media training—where we learned the art of bridging and the sound bite—and grassroots advocacy—where we learned how to make an impact on legislators and their staff. On the last day, we worked exclusively on developing our action plans.
Before I attended the Forum, I had never heard of an action plan, much less created one. In essence, an action plan is an outline of activities covering one year, in which time the goals we want to achieve should be met. By drafting an action item, we work out the method for achieving our goals, how we can overcome potential obstacles, and how we should measure our successes.
As I developed my plan, I realized that my true passion is educating the "Four P's":
I've been fine-tuning my teaching skills ever since.
The Donald M. Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum has evolved since its launch in 2003. I have had the privilege of watching and contributing to that growth, first as a mentor, then as adviser and faculty member, and, this year, as a reporter.
This year's class of 2010 will have heard of and started thinking about their action plans, and will be working on them throughout the four days of the Forum. They will not only train in media communications and grassroots legislative advocacy, but will learn about using social networking as a tool for advocacy.
However, through all the refinement, innovation, and technological advancement, the Donald M. Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum has remained at its core the same energizing experience, connecting passionate neurologists who are ready to make the world better, armed with a simple plan that fits on a single piece of paper—but which offers incalculable value. I can hardly wait to meet this year's cadre of neurology advocates!
Within the past year Dr. Finney received research support from Novartis, for work conduced as a Site Principal Investigator for a study of the Exelon patch in Alzheimer's disease participants. He serves as Associate Editor for Advocacy on AAN.com.