Every time I attend the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, I leave inspired. This year was no different. The AAP is the only professional medical organization that specifically advocates for the patients as opposed to the doctors. Everything the AAP does, from educating pediatricians to visiting representatives on Capitol Hill, is for children. The academy is using its voice to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and for those who don’t vote.
At this year’s conference, our AAP president, Dr. Kyle Yasuda, recapped an incredible year of fighting for children. We are constantly fighting misinformation online so the AAP successfully lobbied for social media platforms to provide links to accurate information and credible sources when parents search about vaccines. Furthermore, the AAP has been instrumental in speaking out against family separation at the border. Pediatricians recognize that gun violence and climate change are both public health concerns that disproportionately affect children. What truly amazes me though about the AAP is not just promotion of the research and evidence-based treatment for children, but the push for further evidence. As a group we are leading the way talking about the effect of institutionalized racism on children. The AAP has also made it their priority to promote diversity and inclusion in all of their sections, committees, and reports. Understanding that we all have implicit bias and training allows us to better communicate with each other and families.
We got to meet the first woman physician in Congress, Dr. Kim Schrier, a pediatrician who is using her position to truly speak for kids on the front line. We heard from several speakers on why the simple act of caring and being there for patients and families is one of the most important things we do. We learned about the effect of the social determinants of health, use of digital media on children, and from Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor who spoke about having diabetes. Her message? If you don’t understand something about another person, just ask! We celebrated the 30th anniversary of Reach Out and Read, a phenomenal program that provides books to underserved children and promotes literacy for everyone. On top of these inspirational plenary sessions, pediatricians learned the latest evidence on every topic possible.
As you can imagine, it’s impossible to attend everything at a conference this big. That’s where the power of Twitter comes in. After all of these years of being a “tweetiatrician,” sharing relevant child health information to the public and connecting with other pediatricians, I still get funny looks about my use of twitter. While the term may be cute, the task is very important. Everything the AAP does or promotes must be communicated. The responsibility falls on us, those who do media, to educate and advocate via our platforms. Providing education to other pediatricians via Twitter is just one of the ways we can communicate. Just search the hashtag #AAP19 and you will spend days learning about vaccines, contraception, ear infections, media use, and more. I’m proud to not only use my voice to advocate for children, but to be part of an organization that values using this voice.
Of course, social media is also about fun and connecting. Besides learning and feeling inspired, we get to meet each other in person and take our famous tweetiatrician selfies. We get to walk the exhibit hall and meet authors who are signing their books, get important information on what’s coming out of our country’s children’s hospitals, and learn about products and technology that can help our practices and our patients.
At a time when science and medicine is under attack, when physician burnout and suicide is at an all-time high, it’s refreshing and renewing to be amongst people whose daily sacrifice is strictly for the care of children. To be with doctors who give their all for their patients and who lift each other up. For any pediatrician who has never attended AAP, I highly recommend it. Next year in San Diego!
Image: Grinbox / shutterstock