Learning a New Way to Serve Children

Ruth Conn, MD, FAAP

I retired from general pediatric practice in 2016 and moved from Seattle to Olympia, but without a clear plan for fulfillment.  I had several volunteer ideas and lots of personal interests, but I wanted to do something that made me feel useful, gave me purpose, and used my medical degree to good end.

I have been a long-time member of WCAAP but have never been active in the chapter.  Shortly before I left Seattle, Dr. Ed Marcuse suggested that I look into the advocacy committee since I would be in the capital.  Frankly, I found the idea daunting.  I’ve never been a good public speaker nor have I been politically active other than exercising my right to vote.  So I dragged my feet!

Dr. Ruth Conn with fellow advocates in Olympia

In the summer of 2017, I finally got off the dime and contacted Dr. Lelach Rave, the co-chair of the committee, and began to attend the monthly phone meetings.  In this way, I became familiar with the committee members and the issues that would be the focus for the 2018 legislative session.  I met Dr. Beth Harvey of Olympia, who has long been active in this work, and through her met my representatives and senator and learned how to advocate for change before the legislature launched.

In January of this year, although nervous, I dove into advocacy work headfirst and began testifying before senate and house committees.  Giving testimony was thoroughly supported by Sarah Rafton and Jennifer Donahue, who essentially wrote the core of my testimony and made sure that the final product was submitted to the committee chair and committee members.  Amber Ulvenes met me on the day of the testimony and showed me how to sign in and how the process would work.  I heard testimony on multiple bills and sometimes amended mine based on what I heard.  In the end, I testified seven times, supporting three different bills, and each time it felt easier.  I learned a tremendous amount about the legislative process and the power of advocacy as well.

The icing on the cake was attending the bill signings for those I had supported.  I would encourage all to find time to do this important work and feel the satisfaction of knowing you advocated for the health and wellbeing of all children in Washington.

*Editor’s note: While Dr. Conn testified an impressive seven times last session, the WCAAP Legislative Committee welcomes as much or as little involvement as you are able to give. Here are some ways to get involved. Our annual Advocacy Day is a great way to jump right in, and registration is now openContact us to learn more!