Why I Advocate: Reflections on 10 Years Advocating with WCAAP

Lelach Rave, MD, FAAP
WCAAP Legislative Committee

The first time I testified in Olympia, I made the trip while on maternity leave with a newborn — a perfect time to take a spitty infant on a long car trip to a formal hearing room. I recall sitting with my daughter, who was sleeping peacefully, waiting for my turn to speak. I handed her off to Laurie Lippold (WCAAP lobbyist at the time) when my turn came, hoping that she would stay quiet as much as I hoped that I wouldn’t mess up.

Nine and a half years later, that same little girl is used to hearing about mom going to Olympia or having a legislative meeting. Hopefully, she is also growing up steeped in the tradition of legislative advocacy and social justice.

Just as we advocate for our patients, and for the children of our state, we also advocate for our children.  We advocate to live our highest aspirations.

We advocate to counteract the feeling of impotence that often haunts us. We advocate to give action to our dreams and testimony to the pains we witness. We advocate to channel the frustration we feel at the injustices our patients endure — to awaken the hope and potential we have seen realized in so many of our patients to ALL Washington’s children.

The biggest lesson I have learned during my years of involvement with the Legislative Committee is that legislators are just people. They are trying their best with a tough job – learning as much as they can about more topics than any one of us could ever really master. They have their unique histories which bias them. They have humility and ego and fear and hope, each in their own measure.

Much like pediatricians.

I have found the most success connecting with legislators honestly, at a human level. And this is what makes pediatricians great legislative advocates – human interaction is the oxygen we breath in our practices. The art to match the science. Add to that the esteem with which physicians are generally held in our society, and we are primed for success like few others.

Of course, there are challenges. Persistence has been another huge lesson during my years of involvement. We are always playing the long game. Going back to the same issues, time after time, often can and will pay off. Our accomplishments have been great. During my time of involvement, WCAAP has successfully advocated for many varied things including creation of the Washington Vaccine Association, Paid Family Leave, PALS referral line, and payment for developmental, autism and depression screens.

All of these accomplishments happen collectively. WCAAP has a tremendous staff, a deep bench on our legislative committee and strong partnerships with other organizations, all of which amplify each pediatrician’s voice. So I encourage you to add yours.

At this time of pandemic, health is forefront in everyone’s minds – both physical health and the social determinants of health – and our voices are essential in the conversation. At this time of social unrest and exposed inequities, when there is overwhelming evidence that the “system” fails so many of our citizens, it is more important than ever for us to ensure the system works for EVERYONE. So join us, for your patients, for the children of our state, for the children in your closest circle and for the children of the future. Join us so that you can look back on this unique challenging time and feel like you showed up.

WCAAP’s 2012 Advocacy Day
2018 March For Our Lives
Dr. Rave going over WCAAP’s legislative priorities at our 2018 Advocacy Day
Dr. Rave presenting Rep. Tom Dent with the AAP Advocate Award
With Reps. Jessyn Farrell and Gerry Pollet at a 46th Legislative District gathering in 2015
Rep. Jessyn Farrell and Dr. Lelach Rave