By Rafael J. Fernandez, Jr., MD

As the 2023 Florida Legislative streaks to a close it offers an opportunity to reflect on missed opportunities and hope for future efforts to advance the practice of medicine in our state. The real story of the session will be written over the coming months as we witness the implementation of new laws and the regulation and legal challenges that are likely to linger on. What is clear is the start of our efforts as physicians to advocate for meaningful reform starts in our community and it needs to start immediately.

As your Dade County Medical Association delegation recently spent a productive week in Tallahassee I was struck by the sheer volume of voices that are ever present in Tallahassee. Countless passionate advocates supported by their hired lobbyists fill the halls pressing Legislators to consider the value of their requests. I empathize with our elected officials as they weigh the numerous issues before them and the well-articulated perspectives all of their constituents bring to the forefront.

The most glaring observation however is that physician voices need to be heard now more than ever. As professionals we view our current practice climate with trepidation. We see the influx of external influences that impede our ability to practice quality medicine in the manner we sought when we started our journey on this calling. All of those external influences are actively engaged in the legislative process seeking to enshrine their desires to control care delivery in state law and regulations.

As physicians we must advocate for ourselves. If we abdicate our responsibility to speak for our profession, those that seek to expand their influence will continue to do so.

Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to travel to Tallahassee and appreciate the process now more than ever. What is clear is that the education and relationship building with legislators must start long before the professional advocates engage them in Tallahassee. We must dedicate our time and resources to educate our elected officials on the plight we face. Too commonly the realities we face are not portrayed in what they hear in Tallahassee. And we are the only ones who can share our stories.

I encourage you to learn more about our advocacy efforts this year in the next issue of Miami Medicine where I will go further in depth on our efforts. And I implore you to reach out and ask how you can help the DCMA expand our efforts.

Dr. Rafael J. Fernandez, Jr., is President of Dade County Medical Association.