Contributor: Jasmine D. Gonzalvo, Pharm.D., BCPS, BC-ADM, CDE, LDE
In partnership with
Do you consider yourself an advocate? If so, who or what do you advocate for?
For those of you who don’t identify as advocates (although, I’d bet you’re still advocates): What obstacles prevent you from becoming an advocate? Can you think of times in your life when you were really activated about a situation which caused you to take action?
A spectrum of advocacy exists, right? Some people may think going up to Capitol Hill in Washington DC, meeting with legislators, and supporting specific bills is the epitome of advocacy. Sure, that’s advocacy, and that might work for a relatively small group of individuals. Government advocacy can also happen at the State level, which can arguably have more of an impact on you as an individual. For example, let’s say you worked with a bunch of your friends and family who are passionate about diabetes (grassroots advocacy!) to draft and pass a bill at the state level to help get insulin exempt from the deductible for individuals in high deductible health plans. You could serve as the initial impetus to help save hundreds of lives with that type of action! You can also choose to volunteer for organizations or campaigns, sign petitions, or promote information on social media that align with your cause – all of this falls under the umbrella of some level of advocacy!
Not everyone is comfortable or has the opportunity to meet with legislators. There are still plenty of ways to be an advocate! Advocating for yourself in conversations with your healthcare professionals is an essential part of the larger spectrum of advocacy. Uncomfortable with a treatment recommendation? Speak up! Ask questions! Get a new provider! All healthcare professionals should listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and help you understand your options, so that you can determine what’s best for you from an informed perspective. Self-advocacy is a must to ensure that you are receiving the best care in a safe space that involves shared-decision making and person-centered care.
Personally, prior to the last five years, I’m not sure I’d identify as much of an advocate. I’ve practiced clinically as a pharmacist and diabetes care and education specialist for over a decade. I work with the underserved population of downtown Indianapolis. Although I’m largely responsible for helping to manage medication regimens for diabetes and related cardiovascular conditions, I spend a good majority of my time trying to increase access to medications, completing prior authorizations, following up on denials, switching medications to safely accommodate formulary preferences, providing education on dosing and administration differences, and trying to eliminate healthcare disparities. These experiences made me want to do more on a larger scale.
Fast forward to today, and somehow I’m being asked to present and write blog posts about being a diabetes advocate! I’m still not sure how it all happened! I asked a lot of questions in the beginning: What’s going on in my state related to diabetes? What resources are available to help me get involved? How do I support a bill? Who do I need to start talking to? These were all things that I could learn about, but I soon realized that I already had the most important tools for advocacy: ambition, passion, and years of spending time working with people with diabetes. At this point, I’ve been to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators to support specific pieces of diabetes-related legislation. I’ve served on state and national diabetes committees. I’ve led local grassroots initiatives to encourage support for diabetes bills. The best answer I can think of when asked how I became a diabetes advocate is, “I found my voice.” All of us that either live with diabetes, treat people with diabetes, or both, have important expertise to share. The trick is knowing how to say it and to whom.
Advocacy can be a challenging environment in which to survive. There are always new obstacles, system limitations, and issues that are outside any one individual's control. Sometimes tangible change takes longer than we would hope. But I am convinced that with passionate dedication to a cause (diabetes, for example) YOU ARE CAPABLE OF INCITING SIGNIFICANT CHANGE. To quote The Lorax from Dr. Seuss, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
Jasmine D. Gonzalvo, Pharm.D., BCPS, BC-ADM, CDE, LDE, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice in the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University. Her clinical practice for Eskenazi Health involves the provision of Cardiovascular Risk Reduction services operating under a collaborative practice agreement in a population with serious mental illness and for those who primarily speak Spanish. Dr. Gonzalvo’s research interests and publications relate to cardiovascular risk reduction in individuals with serious mental illness, integration of the Spanish language into both her practice and academic settings, and diabetes self-management education and services in the pharmacy setting. Her teaching areas within the College of Pharmacy involve diabetes, dyslipidemia, patient-centered medical homes, motivational interviewing, and cultural competence. She served on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) from 2015 through 2017. She is the current Chair-Elect on the Board of Directors for the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. She is active in diabetes-related advocacy efforts at the State and Federal levels. In 2018, she was appointed as one of 12 non-federal members to the National Clinical Care Commission. She has been recognized with several teaching and mentorship awards throughout her career.