American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

I Am an ACS Surgeon Advocate: Naveen F. Sangji, MD, MPH

This is a regular SurgeonsVoice Monthly feature written by members who explain why they chose to become an ACS surgeon advocate. This month, we hear from Naveen F. Sangji, MD, MPH, a fourth-year general surgery resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.

Naveen F. SangjiAs a medical student on clinical clerkships, I developed an interest in the policies governing our hospitals and, more broadly, our health care system. At the same time, I was involved in advocacy efforts centered on enhancing labor safety. To that end, I had participated in an event in Washington, DC, meeting with congressional staff to directly champion our cause.

When I started my residency, I heard Peter Masiakos [MD, FACS], a pediatric surgeon at my institution, talk about how he was able to bring about a change in Massachusetts state law based on a patient’s story. Two of my interests, health care policy and advocating for issues that I care about deeply, seemed to come together in his story. Here was a way for me as a physician to help bring about meaningful change for my patients and my profession.  

Aware of my interest in health policy, Dr. Masiakos suggested that I get involved with a committee organizing the first Massachusetts Chapter of the ACS state advocacy day. This experience enhanced my interest in physician advocacy. During lobbying events with legislators at the annual ACS Advocacy Summit, I saw how our patients’ stories can serve as powerful narratives for explaining why the changes we seek in our health care system are necessary.

Our relationships with our legislators are two-way streets. After meeting the health legislative aide for my representative three years in a row at the Advocacy Summit, we have started to develop a rapport. For the first time this year, our meeting was not about the surgeons sharing our requests with the representative, but rather, the aide felt comfortable asking a question about an issue of interest to him and the representative. These relationships take time to develop. Time may be our rarest commodity as surgical residents, but the impact for our patients and our profession can be tremendous and highly rewarding.

There are numerous ways to get involved—from sending a letter to members of Congress through SurgeonsVoice, to requesting an in-district meeting with legislators. For residents, the Issues and Advocacy Committee of the Resident and Associate Society of the ACS, which champions issues of interest to resident members through work groups and subcommittees, can be a great way to get involved and start making a difference.

You can follow Dr. Sangji’s example of advocating for the profession and surgical patients. Here are several ways the ACS makes it easy for you to get involved:

  • Become familiar with key legislative issues affecting surgeons and surgical patients
  • Respond to ACS calls to action to write or call your lawmakers
  • Participate in the annual Leadership & Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC, as well as your local ACS chapter’s state advocacy day
  • Build relationships with your lawmakers by attending their in-district meetings and/or town halls or by inviting them to visit your surgical practice
  • Learn about the ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC
About the Surgeon Advocate

Naveen F. Sangji, MD, MPH, is a fourth-year general surgery resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.