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    Coalition building: There's strength in numbers

    This article is part of an ongoing series from the American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU), based on a partnership between the AACU and Urology Times. Articles are designed to provide monthly updates on state and federal legislative issues affecting urologists. We welcome your comments and suggestions about topics for future articles. Contact Ross Weber, state affairs manager, at 847-264-5924, or Joe Arite, government relations manager, at 847-517-1050 or

    Coalition building and collaboration—with media outlets, patients, and legislators—can positively influence how the practice of urology is perceived by the general public.

    This important point, and the basics behind mutually beneficial relationships, proved to be the key takeaways from a recent AACU state advocacy conference.

    Public relations expert Pete Friedmann hammered home the point that "Perception is everything—perception is reality" at that event. Friedmann urged doctors to communicate through diverse media to establish that perception/reality for urology. Friedmann recommended that doctors identify a local media outlet’s health/business "beat" reporter and invite him or her to a desk-side briefing on a single issue, eg, kidney stone prevention/treatment, prostate cancer screening/treatment, payment reform, or why doctors are leaving private practice. Building collaborative relationships with online, print, television, and radio reporters depends on providing new information in a quotable fashion, ie, without reliance on "medical speak" and acronyms.

    Friedmann also asserted that the power of social media to create coalitions becomes more formidable every day. Betty White’s hosting of NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" attests to this simple fact. In short, physicians must utilize tools such as Facebook to bring issues to the forefront, whether by creating or joining these online coalitions.

    Modern coalitions are too often a mile long and an inch think. To build a more robust network of supporters, urologists must look beyond themselves and the physician community. Illinois Civil Justice League President Ed Murnane recalled to AACU conference attendees that his organization put the Girl Scouts front-and-center as the larger group fought for tort reform. Media outlets ate up the assertion that liability insurance premiums were so out of control that scouts had to sell an outlandish number of cookies to cover those costs.

    Similarly, urologists might consider collaborating with a patient group such as the Men’s Health Network to place a sympathetic face on the sterile practice of medicine. A coalition of physicians and patients could easily promote public health initiatives and screening programs, according to Men’s Health Network Vice President Scott Williams, who spoke at the October 2010 conference. Williams pointed to early success in this regard. In March 2010, the Prostate Cancer Roundtable, consisting of 14 national organizations, secured the first comprehensive congressional hearing on prostate cancer in 11 years.

    With goodwill and a strong coalition of supporters, urologists can show up at capitols and district offices expecting to be favorably received by legislators and staff on tough issues like payment reform, billing authority, and imaging regulations.

    Urologists, then, must not act alone. Instead, physicians must seek out mutually beneficial relationships with media and like-minded groups. If such coalitions don’t exist? Create them.

    To learn more about legislative issues in your state, please visit AACU’s Action Center today at www.aacuweb.org.

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