Washington Scene: STS Advocacy Helps Empower Surgeons Outside of the OR

STS News, Spring 2018 -- For Mitchell J. Magee, MD, becoming involved in political advocacy was his way to influence patient care beyond the operating room and the health care setting.

“While we all derive immense satisfaction from providing the best care to each individual patient, we are often confronted with limitations that we and our patients feel powerless to impact,” he said. “It has been personally and professionally satisfying to learn through STS advocacy that we are not powerless, and we can make a difference.”

Dr. Magee, who is Surgical Director of Thoracic Oncology and the Minimally Invasive Therapy Institute for Lung and Esophagus at Medical City Dallas Hospital, recently received the Society’s Key Contact of the Year Award for his extraordinary efforts in advocating for the specialty.

Mitchell J. Magee, MD received the Society’s Key
Contact of the Year Award this past January
(from left: Chair of the STS Council on Health
Policy and Relationships Alan M. Speir, MD,
Dr. Magee, and STS President Keith S.
Naunheim, MD)

He has attended many STS Legislative Fly-Ins in Washington, DC, and said his first Fly-In, in 2014, was the most enlightening.

“The STS staff provided all of the tools that I needed, including a planned schedule of meetings with my representatives or their staffs, talking points for those meetings, and materials to leave behind. I also was grouped with other STS members, many of whom were Fly-In veterans. They showed me the ropes and made delivery of our messages more effective,” Dr. Magee said.

He said that he was impressed with how diligently the representatives and their staffs listened.

“It was apparent how much our opinions were respected and how genuinely interested the Congressional staff members were in understanding our concerns and how these issues impact us and our patients as their constituents,” Dr. Magee said.

This initial positive experience in Washington led to annual meetings with his representatives, either in DC or their local offices in Dallas. These meetings have helped Dr. Magee foster personal relationships with his representatives and their key staff.

Mitchell J. Magee, MD met with Rep. Pete Sessions
(left) at an STS Legislative Fly-In in Washington, DC,
last fall.

One such relationship is with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Chairman of the House Rules Committee, who represents the Dallas area. Dr. Magee was invited to join the Congressman’s National Physicians’ Council for Healthcare Policy.

“Rep. Sessions regularly seeks my input, which reflects that of the Society,” Dr. Magee said. “He knows that STS is a data-driven resource.”

STS staff recently helped Dr. Magee create talking points about the benefits of accessing Medicare claims data for longitudinal research. Those talking points were then used during a Physicians’ Council meeting. 

“By engaging policymakers to identify the issues impacting medicine and possible legislative solutions, Dr. Magee is helping physicians and patients across the country,” Rep. Sessions said. “His passion for advocacy is truly inspiring.”

Although some cardiothoracic surgeons fully support advocacy efforts, Dr. Magee acknowledges that others may have a cynical view of the political process and use it as an excuse for not participating; he urged them to reconsider.

“It has been personally and professionally satisfying to learn through STS advocacy that we are not powerless, and we can make a difference.”

Mitchell J. Magee, MD

“I certainly don’t agree with all of my representatives on every issue; with some of my representatives, I disagree on many issues,” Dr. Magee said. “Cardiothoracic surgeons share a desire to provide the best for our patients. Whether or not we agree with the process or like our representatives, we still must work to benefit our patients, the specialty, and the Society.” 

To learn more about how you can become involved in STS advocacy efforts, visit sts.org/advocacy or contact the STS Government Relations office.