149. How to Become an Advocate for Our Industry and Customers

Whether we like it or not, the government laws and regulations can massively affect the way we operate or cannot operate our businesses. Sometimes we need to advocate to make sure these laws and regulations are affecting us and, our customers, and our industries in positive ways. As we advocate, or do anything in life, conflicts of interest may arise.

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss what Marion Mass is doing to improve the health care system through advocacy, how we as entrepreneurs can be better advocates within our industries, and how we can remove our conflicts of interest to improve our credibility.

Dr. Marion Mass is a mother, pediatrician, community volunteer, writer, and advocate for high-quality, sustainable health care in the U.S. that will attract bright, hardworking minds in the future. She trained at Duke’s School of Medicine and the Northwestern Children’s Memorial Hospital. She now practices in the Philadelphia suburbs. She co-founded the nonpartisan grassroots Practicing Physicians of America and serves as part of the leadership of the Free 2 Care coalition. She speaks, writes, and advocates for improving health care access and lowering its costs.

Why Marion Advocates

Marion is passionate about health care. She loved her journey through medical school and residency and loves taking care of patients. While looking at the landscape of medicine, she realized people aren’t choosing to be doctors in the future.

She sees a lot of physicians going through what she calls Drexit: doctor exit. Doctors are frustrated with all the boxes they have to check through mandates, authorizations, insurance, etc. “There’s so much that we have to do,” Marion said. “Physicians either get burned out or they get morally injured.”

Doctors are leaving. Many are retiring early. The profession has one of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. The health care system is broken and unsustainable. “If we don’t fix it,” Marion says, “America will be very unhealthy and sorry in the future when they show up to deliver their baby or have their appendix taken out and there’s not a quality physician there that’s well-trained to take care of them.”

Health care isn’t just a problem in the U.S. I lived in Brazil for a couple of years, where they have a socialized medicine system that doesn’t work. People often joke that those are the hospitals where you go to die. But they have a secondary health care system not provided by the government. It’s surprisingly inexpensive and the doctors don’t have to jump through all the same hoops, so they can focus on providing health care.

Marion shared a story about her friend who is from Ukraine, where they also have a socialized system. Her mother needed a hysterectomy there. She went to the government-run hospital and found out they had no soap, hand sanitizer, or toilet paper. She had to bring her own. For an inexpensive fee, Marion’s friend moved her mother to a hospital that accepted cash, where she got good care and wasn’t afraid of getting an infection.

Health care has consumed costs all across the board. Marion said the public sectors like school districts are paying more and employers are paying more. Overall, it’s way more expensive than it needs to be. Marion realized all these things and came to the conclusion that she needed to do something about it.

Advocacy Efforts: Anyone Can Advocate

Marion started looking for groups to join and ways to advocate. On her first trip to Washington D.C., she was nervous. She went to a congressperson’s office for a meeting, thinking, “These guys are going to be so well-versed. They’re going to know everything I’m talking about, everything I’ve learned over the past couple of years.” Her hands started to sweat and she was worried she’d stumble over her words.

By the time the conversation was over, she thought, “Oh, I should have been doing this a long time ago.” Marion said, “I’m in a robe. I’m a recovering soccer mom with an MD. I’m a real person. I will have conversations with lawmakers while I’m in my bathrobe, sweeping my kitchen. . . . But if I can do this, anyone can.”

Sometimes we think we can’t do something until we learn more about it or until we reach a certain point in our career. Marion didn’t wait. She cared about the issues and wanted to do something to help, so she did.

She started writing, speaking, doing podcasts, hosting and attending events, serving on the editorial board of a county newspaper, and talking to lawmakers. To those who are considering getting involved, she said, “Finding your voice with speaking and writing to people that can change policy . . . is so important. We trained to do this. We’re the ones that close the door and hear people’s intimate stories. And it breaks my heart when people can’t get what they need. I can’t tolerate it anymore.”

Marion told me about a doctor who recently published a piece in 14 Pennsylvanian newspapers. She went to medical school in Pakistan and Marion said she’s got a great voice. Marion encouraged her to speak up. Her piece was published and she’s been on a podcast or two.

Anyone can do this. The internet has made it easy for anyone with a phone to make a difference. Our background, age, or experience doesn’t matter. If we have an issue we care about, something that affects our lives or the lives of those around us, we can make an effort to change it. If we want to change something, we have the power to make change happen.

Entrepreneurs and Advocacy

Health care advocacy itself should be very important to us as entrepreneurs and CEOs because not only is it one of our biggest costs, but also because it is an essential part of taking great care of our people and our families. But health care isn’t the only legislative issue we deal with in our organizations. Sometimes those legislative issues can cause a lot of problems in our businesses.

For example, over the past 10 years, there have been some adoption laws, rules, or regulations passed or implemented that have caused fewer children to be able to find loving, permanent families. Working with Adoption.com, I’ve had to get a lot more involved in advocacy within my niche of adoption over the last decade. I’ve worked with senators, congressmen, government organizations, and associations to try to get bad laws and regulatory implementation changed and prevent more bad laws from being created.

For example, this morning I did a little work to help encourage an Idaho senator to support some adoption legislation. As another example, when there were regulatory implementation issues causing a decline in international adoption years ago, I was able to go to DC to speak with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Glenn Beck, an adoptive father, had me on his show to discuss the solutions to the issue. It has been amazing over the years to see the people passionate about adoption and children come together to try to impact that change.

Shiza Shahid is an example of an entrepreneur striving to make a difference. This Stanford University graduate co-founded the Malala Fund with Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Shahid led the organization as founding CEO, focusing on creating access to high-quality education for all children around the world. She also founded The Collective, a community of leading entrepreneurs that come together to build collaborative change (Source: CAA.com).

We often fall into the trap that “somebody should do something” about an issue. However, often, we are one of the somebodies who need to help solve the problem. You can probably make a lot more of a difference than you think when you work together with many others who share your passion.

Removing Conflicts of Interest

Many people who lobby and advocate in D.C. have conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest take away from a person’s credibility, hurting what they’re trying to accomplish. That person’s opponent can use conflicts of interest to attack them and destroy their credibility.

In 2010, the U.S. passed the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. Marion described how this database allows any citizen to look up any physician in the country and see how much money they are taking from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Marion detailed how important it is to have this information. If I go to a doctor and they prescribe me medication X and I look them up on the database and find out that they’re taking thousands of dollars from the pharmaceutical company that manufactures medication X, I’m going to be suspicious; it’s going to make me question whether I actually need that medication or not.

These aren’t the only conflicts of interest. Marion believes that taking speaking or writing fees may do the same thing. Marion said, “As soon as you get paid by someone — a university, a hospital, an insurance company — as soon as you open up your mouth to take a speaking fee, it may make you suspect the same way that a doctor would be suspect by taking fees from pharma.” We can choose to take that money, but it may erode our credibility depending on who is paying for our speaking and writing.

Marion has done something to remove these conflicts of interest. She doesn’t take speaking or writing fees. “I think the fact that I don’t take speaking fees, and I know others like me that don’t, I think that means something.” Refusing to take these fees gives Marion credibility.

Conflicts of interest can be a big part of reducing credibility. As customers realize we have a conflict of interest — even if we are honest and ethical — their trust declines. We need to remove our conflicts of interest wherever we can to improve our credibility.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Marion for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Anyone can advocate. We don’t need any special qualifications; we just need to care about issues and have a desire to make a difference.

2. When we advocate, we should work together with many other people who share our passion for the issue.

3. There are many issues that affect the businesses that may require us to advocate for our industry, our customers, and our businesses.

4. If we remove our conflicts of interest and communicate that effectively, we will improve our credibility.

Connect with Marion

If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Marion or connect with her, you can find her on LinkedIn or visit Practicing Physicians of America.

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Nathan Gwilliam helps entrepreneurs and digital marketers transform into better digital monetizers with revolutionary marketing and monetization strategies.