Talk about getting your money's worth... I donated $100 to Oregon medical student Richard Bruno so that he could buy stickers to distribute at an AAFP students' and residents' meeting, to protest AAFP's "deal" with Coca-Cola:
For that sum I not only allowed the purchase of some materials (as you'll see below) but also secured Richard's services as this blog's Special Correspondent at the meeting. Herewith the Special Correspondent's report:
Wow, what an incredible experience. We fought hard, but our "end the coca cola alliance" resolution lost by one vote! I'll give you a rundown of what happened, but considering no one has ever done anything like this at the conference, I think we made quite an impact.
Last Tuesday I spent a few hours getting quotes for stickers and postcards. I placed an order for 250 "no coke" stickers for $75 to be delivered to the Kansas City Marriott on Friday. Looking back I think it would have been better to pay the extra $25 to have overnight shipping and have had them there on Thursday so we could have gotten them out to more people. But I was also placing an order for 500 postcards ($75). As soon as I placed it, however, I received a call from Dr Amy McGaha, asst director of medical education for the AAFP. She informed me that someone had forwarded her [our] blog post on our campaign efforts and let me know that we would not be able to hand out any materials at the convention center, parking lot, or hotel, without reserving an exposition booth.
In what was likely a hasty move, I cancelled the postcards, not knowing how we would manage to get them signed by attendees if we were going to have eyes on us all weekend. Just to be sure, I emailed the Oregon Health and Science University family medicine residency director asking if he would allow us to distribute materials from the residency program booth. He assured me that he believed in our cause, was equally outraged at the partnership, and that we could have materials on their table.
Our resolution was coming along nicely, and was a collaborative effort from 4 OHSU students and 4 students at other medical schools (with input by a resident Lenny Lesser). It was submitted on Thursday before I arrived. I gave testimony to the Reference Committee hearing on Friday, and there were 4 AAFP board of directors there to hear it. Afterwards, Dr Ted Epperly (Idaho), former President of AAFP and current board member, came up to me afterwards. I had met him in the fall when he came to speak at OHSU and gave him a stack of scientific papers implicating sugar-sweetened beverages as the number one cause of obesity. He vowed to take them back to the board of directors and later told me that he was the lone voice of dissent on the board. After the hearing, he told me that he had spent a lot of time considering the board's position, and that he has finally seen it their way, as a necessary step for financial stability. I was definitely disappointed he had changed his position, but vowed that I would never trade my values for what is status quo, or even what is "politically feasible."
I had also submitted a resolution to "establish a single payer task force," which I thought would be a small but important step toward the AAFP endorsing universal healthcare. Dr David Ellington, another board member approached me after the hearing and told me that he was actually a single payer supporter, but that we would have to agree to disagree on the coke partnership. He also cautioned me not to confuse ethics with justice. I had apparently miffed him when I brought up the question of ethics during my testimony, though I relied more on the conflict of interest strategy as outlined by your AFM article.
After the hearing I picked up the stickers which had arrived at the hotel, and started getting them out to everyone from OHSU. There were a number of parties being thrown by various residency programs in hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms across the city, and we made our way to many of them, proudly displaying our "no coke" stickers. It was amazing to see what kind of reaction it got from folks. I did not carry enough with me--they went very quickly. I told people to come Saturday morning to vote on the resolution (because even if the reference committee did not adopt the resolution, which I assumed they wouldn't, I would extract it for debate and open it up for a vote among the entire congress of delegates).
Saturday morning came, and before the general session, I stood on the street corner and handed out stickers for half an hour. More folks took them than didn't and I felt pleasant about bringing awareness to those who didn't know anything about it. During the congress of delegates meeting, I extracted the resolution (along with my other resolution on single payer) and it went through some lively testimony from me and many other students. About half of the AAFP board of directors was there--I know they were very interested to see how things would shake out. After about half an hour of debate, the vote came down and we lost by one.
I'm confident that our voice was heard, and that the board will put a little more thought into the student viewpoint when engaging in decisions like this. I still believe the partnership compromises the integrity of the organization, and will continue to fight it. I'm pleased to know that the Oregon and Washington Academies both have similar resolutions that were passed and will be brought before the national congress of delegates in September.
I am really grateful to your support which lent momentum to our efforts. I would like to return the $25 we did not use.
Richard, please keep the $25, your long message was worth it to keep our readers updated! (Even those readers who are keeping an eye on this blog to tip off AAFP leaders to upcoming demonstrations!) Also, perhaps one of the intellectual lights on the AAFP board of directors could explain to me exactly what is meant by "not confusing ethics and justice."