Rethinking Creating Community in the Time of COVID-19
A reflection by National Organizer Laura Riker.
The Reproductive Health Access Network is a community of clinicians from all over the United States, and while we have always connected with our Network members virtually through newsletters and listservs, the heart of our work has been in bringing clinicians together in person. These in-person gatherings serve as touchstones for our Network members, whose daily lives are so busy that they can feel disconnected from other primary care clinicians providing reproductive health care in similar settings. These meetings also serve as opportunities for training, strategizing, and reconnecting with old friends and co-conspirators who fight alongside each other to expand and protect access to reproductive health care, despite mounting opposition. Like many of our Network members, the RHAP Network team also feels reinvigorated and revitalized when we are able to attend Cluster meetings, or go to conferences and meet people in person.
COVID-19 has presented the Network staff with a unique set of new challenges. The pandemic has driven us into our homes, canceling conferences and travel, while our clinicians are on the front lines – working in the hospital, providing telemedicine for 8 – 10 hours a day, continuing to go into the clinic to provide abortion care and other reproductive health services, and so much more. We’re trying to be mindful of the balance between asking too much of our Network members and giving them opportunities to continue the reproductive health care work that they feel so connected to. As a team, we’ve had to reevaluate and reimagine how we can continue our work to expand access to reproductive health care and support clinicians without the critical element of face-to-face gatherings.
We know that for many Network members, connecting with like-minded peers and offering spaces for support is what helps them stay motivated. With threats to abortion access such as Executive Orders banning abortion procedures, the challenges of telemedicine abortion, and the June Medical Services v. Gee decision looming, it is more critical than ever that clinicians come together as a community to remain inspired and motivated. In mid-March, we started hosting regular virtual “RHAPpy Hours” for our Network members. These open-ended spaces now happen at least once a week, and all Network members are welcome to call in. On a personal note, participating in these national calls has provided me with a new level of insight into the diverse range of experiences, workplace settings, and backgrounds that our Network members have.
Seeing for ourselves the strength of our Cluster leaders and the communities that they foster has been a new source of inspiration and learning that has helped inform how we think about the Network moving forward. It may be a long time until we can all come together in person, but in so many ways, this pandemic has forced us to reshape how we provide each other with the human connection and support that is now more necessary than ever.
Spotlight on a Cluster: New York – Getting Ready for a Virtual Congress of Delegates
A report back by Organizer Hailey Broughton-Jones.
“Advocacy in the AAFP is a way for me to lend a voice to those who cannot. It provides the 10,000 foot view which helps put my daily practice in context and provides a platform at a local, state and national level, where I can advocate on behalf of my patients and colleagues.” – Dr. Ivonne McLean, AAFP Liaison, NYC Cluster co-leader, NYSAFP Board Member, Chair of NYSAFP Leadership Commission, and Young Physician Delegate to the AMA
2020 has become a year of change and adaptation. Earlier this week, the New York Cluster gathered to prepare testimony for the annual New York State Academy of Family Physicians’ (NYSAFP) Congress of Delegates (COD). Instead of gathering in Albany in June, members will participate in the COD and provide testimony for resolutions virtually. During our meeting we focused on the following resolutions: Remove the X Waiver; Support Family Physicians Providing Gender-Affirming Care for Youth; Confidentiality Protection for Non-Policy Holders in Healthcare Billing; Resolution Against Criminalizing People Who Obtain An Abortion Across State Lines or Aid; and, Support Full Coverage of SubQ Depo.
Although meeting virtually was a big change from last year’s testimony prep workshop, the grounding aspects of sharing institutional knowledge, fostering mentorship, and providing feedback remained the same. Using Zoom break-out rooms, Cluster members practiced using a resolved clause to anchor their testimony in personal experiences, shared values, and vision. Throughout the workshop, I was constantly reminded of the vital role administrative advocacy plays in the long game of reimagining health care in general and reproductive health care specifically. Professional organizations are platforms to magnify our efforts and we are ready to take the microphone and shift the narrative, one resolution at a time.
Dear Network members,
There is no question that the events of the last few weeks and days are taking a toll on mental and physical health for everyone. To the clinicians we have the honor, privilege, and joy of working with – thank you. Thank you for your selflessness and determination. Thank you for your dedication to your patients and community while navigating the personal and professional stresses of being a health care provider during this public health crisis.
Whether testing for COVID-19, ensuring folks in isolation have the medication they rely on, working in public health departments, or providing abortion care to those who need it, we know that you have stepped up during this pandemic.
We want to acknowledge the unbelievably hard work and personal sacrifice this asks of clinicians and thank you for your tireless work always, but especially for providing the full spectrum of essential care to those in need during the crisis. We at RHAP want to support you in any way we can; please do not hesitate to reach out if you need assistance, time, or just a support system.
If you are interested in hosting a virtual Network event (especially just a community building session to talk about how everyone is coping!) please email National Organizer Laura Riker at email@example.com.
In virtual support & solidarity,
Dalia Brahmi, MD, MPH
Regional Clinical Network Leader
Hailey Broughton-Jones, BA
Laura Riker, MSSW
Lily Trotta, BS
Linda Prine, MD
Silpa Srinivasulu, MPH
Research and Evaluation Manager
Our Network Team is Growing!
We are excited to announce fantastic new additions to our Network Team. Dalia Brahmi, MD, MPH is joining us as our Regional Clinical Network Leader. Dalia, current North Carolina American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Liaison, will be the mentor for our Southern state AAFP advocacy efforts. She will be working with AAFP liaisons in the Florida, Georgia, and Virginia Clusters. She will also provide mentorship and peer support for AAFP liaisons in the Colorado Cluster and Louisiana as it evolves towards becoming a Cluster. As the Regional Clinical Network Leader, Dalia will be working closely with Medical Director Linda Prine, MD on AAFP administrative advocacy efforts. We are thrilled to have Dalia join our team and provide her expertise in strategic organizing and leadership development!
Lily Trotta B.S. (pictured on the right) has joined us as an Organizing Associate, providing needed support to our growing national network of clinician activists. Lily earned her B.S. in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, where she also minored in Creative Writing. Her introduction to advocacy was sparked by her time in the service industry, where rampant issues of discrimination and harassment based on gender, sexuality, race, and immigration status prompted a desire to inform and represent her peers in a more effective way. Coming from a background in event booking and customer service, Lily hit the ground running providing excellent support to the Reproductive Health Access Network.
Silpa Srinivasulu, MPH (pictured on the left) is a public health researcher and practitioner who focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Silpa joins RHAP as its Research and Evaluation Manager. She previously worked as a Program Manager with the Institute for Family Health where she managed the Hands-on Reproductive Training (HaRT) Center, a project to increase the availability of comprehensive family planning services in New York City. While in graduate school, she participated in community-based participatory research to explore the experiences of patients and primary care providers in asking and responding to pregnancy intention screening questions. Her work has been published in a range of scientific journals including Contraception, Family Practice, Women’s Health Issues, and Progress in Community Health Partnerships.
She is committed to incorporating a reproductive justice framework into her work, to ensure all people have access to high-quality and dignified sexual and reproductive health education, services, and care. Silpa earned her MPH from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health with a certificate in Public Health Research Methods.
RHAP worked closely with Silpa in her former role at the Institute for Family Health and we are thrilled to have her as an official RHAP staff member. As our Research and Evaluation Manager she will be leading efforts to evaluate and strengthen the impact of our organizational initiatives, including our Reproductive Health Access Network!
Research Survey | Columbia Law School Project on Religious Hospitals
We are sharing this survey on behalf of The Law, Rights, and Religion Project (LRRP) at Columbia Law School, where researchers want to hear from medical providers about how religion impacts patient care, especially at non-Catholic religious institutions. The LRRP has produced groundbreaking reports on religion and health care, including the disproportionate impact of Catholic health care restrictions on women of color. LRRP is now conducting research on religious restrictions, such as bans on the provision of certain reproductive health care services, at Protestant-affiliated hospitals.
They are also interested in hearing from providers who have observed instances of religion impacting the provision of health care—such as denials of care, anti-LGBTQ discrimination, or proselytizing—both by individual providers or institutions, including in secular and public funding facilities. You do not need to provide your name or the name of the institutions(s) where you’ve worked or trained in order to participate in this survey. If you indicate that you’re willing to participate in a follow-up phone interview, researchers may contact you with the information you provide. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Amy Littlefield at firstname.lastname@example.org