By Steven Snyder, DO, FACOP
Steven Snyder, DO, FACOP
Editor’s Note: Steven Snyder, DO, FACOP, has been one of the ACOP’s finest voices advocating for children and our profession. The PULSE has invited him to author, and subsequently edit, the PULSE’s new column on Advocacy.
What does it mean to advocate? A good place to start is the dictionary. Advocate comes from Latin ad + vocare meaning to call. The root vocare is also from the Latin vox - to speak. So, when we advocate - we speak for children. We argue their causes, promote their interests, champion their needs. Despite taking Latin in high school, I checked the entomology in a dictionary. While looking up synonyms, I saw a strange one that brought back memories of my childhood. One of the synonyms was “paladin.”
Back in the 1950's, as a young boy, I watched a show called “Have Gun - Will Travel.” The story was about an ex-Union officer, Paladin, who became a mercenary. Instead of being the white knight in shining armor, he dressed in black and his calling card was a chess piece - the knight. Paladin spoke for those who didn't have a voice. He was a champion for those who could not defend themselves. Those that could afford him, paid handsomely, those that couldn't, but needed him - paid nothing. In a similar sense, we are the champions of the children we care for. So, beside my childhood digression, how does this relate to advocacy and the ACOP?
Advocacy has taken a back seat in our organization. It's the first statement in our Vision Fulfillment Statements. It's one of the reasons the AAP was created and I believe also the ACOP. But why do we shy away? One primary reason is resources. To have a national presence, we would have to raise dues. The ACOP is a volunteer organization. The Committees and the Board volunteer their time. The few staff we have manage our website, CME and membership status. They do a great job, but advocacy is not one of their responsibilities. Several years ago, as President, I tried to see if we could get more involved with the AOA's advocacy program. They have staff and a presence in Washington, DC. However, most of their concerns were directed at tort reform and reimbursement. Necessary concerns, but not the voice of America's children. We did succeed in getting the AOA to support CHIP and, through the House of Delegates, strengthen our stand on breastfeeding and school nutrition.
Dr. Stan Grogg has represented the AOA in regard to immunizations and Dr. Rob Locke and I have served on the United States Breastfeeding Committee. Several osteopathic pediatricians have served in prominent positions in the AAP, but not representing the ACOP. As I reflect back, I am not satisfied that our organization is doing all it can do.
My uncle, Art Snyder, was a pediatrician in Philadelphia. He was trained by Dr. Arnold Melnick. Arnold told me a story about him that reminded me of Paladin. When my uncle realized some of his patients could no longer afford his normal $2 fee, he opened up a free clinic two blocks from his practice to provide care. He is my Paladin. Someone I aspire to be.
And like Paladin and my uncle, ACOP members have stepped forward to engage individually one child or one community at a time. Our members are my heroes. The ones who stay with the family after their six-minute visit has ended. Those who fight the school board to ensure a child isn't bullied, forgotten or left behind. Those who go on a medical mission, volunteer at sporting events or assist charities.