MADISON – Wisconsin Area Health Education Center (AHEC) supporters from across the state gathered in Madison on September 20, 2017 to advocate at the state capitol during AHEC’s “Day at the Capitol” advocacy event. In the morning, Traci Lindsey, Executive Director of South Central Wisconsin AHEC and Co-Director of Day at the Capitol, introduced the speakers.
Sara Finger, Executive Director of Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, spoke about the importance of healthcare advocacy. “No one can deny your dream, your vision, what you’re seeing in your families, what you’re seeing in your life, what you’re seeing in yourself,” Finger said as she gave advice to participants.
Brenda C. Gray, PhD, MPH spoke to Day at the Capitol participants about the importance of AHEC’s mission. “What we’re called on to do today is show the impact of what we are doing,” said Gray. Brad Gingras, Executive Director of Northwest Wisconsin AHEC, facilitated an advocacy training practice session. Other AHEC staff members offered their input and guidance.
During lunch, the participants listened to advice from a panel of legislators featuring State Senator Jennifer Shilling (District 32) and State Representative Debra Kolste (District 44). Senator Shilling said, “When you’re not in the room they talk about you, when you’re in the room they talk with you.” Representative Kolste commented, “This is your opportunity to tell them your story.”
“The work of AHEC and the organization’s ability to continue to do its work depends a lot on its visibility with legislators because our funding comes from the state,” said Nehemiah Chinavare, Graduate Assistant for the Wisconsin AHEC statewide office and Co-Director of Day at the Capitol.
In the afternoon, participants representing all seven regional AHEC centers attended a total of 52 individual meetings with hometown Representatives and Senators at their offices in the State Capitol building. They discussed the importance of AHEC’s healthcare pipeline and workforce development programs.
One of the most impactful benefits of the Day at the Capitol event was the diversity of experiences and backgrounds of the individuals advocating for Wisconsin AHEC. For example, Carla Echeveste participated in the Rural and Urban Scholars in Community Health (RUSCH) program during her undergraduate career at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and worked with Dr. Melinda Stolley at the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Cancer Disparities Program. Carla helped adapt the Cancer 101 curriculum for the Latino population in Southeastern Wisconsin. When asked what was most impactful about her AHEC experience, Carla said, “Seeing and interacting with physicians who also believe in your capacities and say yes we need female physicians to address this shortage and to keep on motivating us to pursue medicine.” Carla plans to use her undergraduate background in accounting, mathematics, and pre-medicine to possibly pursue a dual MD and MBA.
“I look forward to just being an advocate for medicine and the many disparities and issues that it has because there’s a lot of work to be done.” – Carla Echeveste
Another participant, Travis, is a junior at Portage High School. He plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison and eventually continue to study Oncology in medical school. When asked about how AHEC has made an impact on his education, Travis said, “They’ve really inspired kids at our high school to look more into the healthcare field.” South Central AHEC presents to high schools in the area about different healthcare careers paths. “I didn’t know all the careers that were available in healthcare. It really opened up my idea of healthcare,” said Travis.
“They’ve really inspired kids at our high school to look more into the healthcare field.”- Travis