Giving Patients a Voice through Advocacy
Being an advocate might not only change your patients' lives but your life as well.
Three years ago, I never really thought about advocacy. I knew what it was, and I noticed what other providers were doing, but our practice never played an active role.
My perspective changed quickly after finding out about a policy that would dramatically cut funding for oncology practices, potentially leaving people with cancer without the care they needed. I began to see how the future of my practice—and our patients—hinged on taking action.
I started by sharing information about the negative policy with my colleagues and patients. We also developed and presented personal stories to our senators so they could understand the importance of community oncology and the devastating effects of consolidation and clinic closures on patients.
It was uplifting and empowering to learn that our elected officials do want to do the right thing—but knowing what that is isn’t always immediately apparent. That’s where people with real stories and experiences truly make a difference. Our elected officials need people in the community to stand up and explain why and how policies could hurt them. This isn’t always easy. Cancer is scary, and treatment can be daunting. But know that as an advocate, you are giving patients and families a voice to help fix the system where it’s failing, so others don’t have to endure the same experiences you witnessed.
Results from your efforts won’t happen overnight—and they aren’t supposed to, so don’t get discouraged. This doesn’t make your engagement as an advocate any less important. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Getting involved with other committed advocates and learning how you can help is the first step in achieving small, incremental wins that make a big difference.
Why does advocacy matter to me? That’s simple: my patients’ lives are at stake.
The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) works with practices to develop outreach programs that help us speak with a single, unified voice. COA reminds us that we are not alone in this fight. When we work together, patients, families, and providers are empowered to take control of their health care and make a change.
I’ve been in your shoes. I never thought I needed to step up and make my voice heard. I encourage you to become an advocate by getting involved with a CPAN chapter near you or reaching out to COA to see how you can get involved. I still remember the day I decided to stand up for my patients and practice and do what I thought was right. Together, we can keep cancer care in the community and make sure cutting-edge treatment is available for all.
Kathy Oubre, MS, is the Chief Operating Officer of Pontchartrain Cancer Center in Louisiana and a board member of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA). She believes strongly in the power of advocacy and regularly raises her voice on behalf of community oncology.