Building a Coalition
You have to wear a lot of different hats to bring the key players together for a statewide pain summit. And in Texas, this is no simple feat. Yet Dr. Larry Driver is successfully convening the first inaugural Texas “Pain Summit” in August 2006, engaging disparate stakeholders such as state and federal legislators, state regulators, medical associations, pain organizations and law enforcement.
Coming to the 2005 Mayday Pain & Society Workshop, Driver had the seedling of an idea for a summit in mind, but his initial focus was more narrowly on pain education in the medical community. After going through the training and working on his advocacy plan, Driver expanded his aim: “the outstanding policy panel and the mock meetings with reporters and legislative staff gave me the confidence to widen my goals,” he says.
Driver is testing out the tips for meeting with policymakers in real time. In Texas, Driver has already met with a two state senators, three state representatives, and staff members from the office of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. All have been receptive and are lending support to the Summit.
For Driver, getting his message across in a brief meeting, knowing what to ask for, and following up appropriately are vital skills, whether meeting with legislators or coalition partners: “My comfort level in this setting, and my ability to stay on message, is a direct outgrowth of the training,” says Driver.
Already the contact person for the Texas Cancer Pain Initiative, Driver’s work on the summit as raised his profile in the pain community. His summit work, he says, has “exposed me to others who, hearing that I am a Mayday Fellow, feel comfortable because we have the same interests.” The American Pain Foundation asked Driver to be a regional media contact person for pain issues so they can refer interview requests to him. He is working with his public relations office at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to screen requests and manage the message that goes out. Driver also recently recorded a public service announcement for the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
In August, leaders from the legislature, governmental agencies, medicine, academia, professional associations and pain groups will come together to assess the state of pain care in Texas. No matter what comes of this important event, Driver is prepared to maximize its impact.
Feeling comfortable in his role of public convener, Driver is primed to make a difference. For Driver, being a Mayday Fellow has been the “catalyst to act” on his advocacy goals.
Larry C. Driver, M.D., is a 2005/06 Mayday Fellow and Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center