A First Step in Physician Advocacy

Mireya Paz Taboada, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine

I don’t think being pro-choice was ever a conscious decision that I made – it is just what makes sense to me as a woman and as someone who wants to provide quality medical care to her fellow human beings. But when I knew I would be starting medical school, I began thinking more about how to actively establish and embed my values into my future as a physician. Joining Medical Students for Choice was a first step in being proactive about my personal and professional development. I then decided to attend the Conference on Family Planning (CoFP).

When you start medical school, taking a weekend away from books feels like a risk, but what you gain from getting outside the lecture hall is huge. The CoFP introduced me to one of the most important parts of this nation-wide organization: the community. A ballroom full of fellow students who are committed to defending reproductive rights, who share their experiences fighting for comprehensive education in a system that often brushes it aside, is a pretty remarkable place. I didn’t quite grasp before arriving at the conference just how robust the network of current and future physicians dedicated to reproductive justice is, but I am now aware of this key resource I can rely on.

It is also special to attend an event designed entirely for medical students – the content is targeted for what we can do in this moment and also offers ideas for looking ahead as we begin to visualize what we want our careers to be. Questions and preconceptions I didn’t even know I held about how to be a reproductive health advocate were addressed. As a first year, I found the hands-on sessions are particularly illuminating – you enter knowing nothing about how to handle instruments, but because of the patient and wonderful instructors, you walk out with your clinical skills toolbox expanded just a bit.

Besides the elegance and simplicity of the procedures, what has stuck with me the most is how varied a path you can take towards championing abortion rights as a physician. It was eye-opening to hear from physicians from many specialties and locations talk about their own MSFC experiences and how their practices range from policy-focused to full-time abortion providers. I do not yet know what specialty I will choose, but I do know is that advocacy is going to be a key part of how I leverage my position as a physician. The CoFP is a touchstone that I will return to, to reinforce my plan and gather more invaluable information on how to create my voice.