This has been a very busy legislative year for the Florida Society for Doctors of Oriental Medicine!
Every year we get the opportunity to reach legislators from all over the state for a 2 month period of time. It’s called: Legislative session.
That’s the time when laws are made or changed. It is a time when we can showcase our medicine to the lawmakers and decision makers in our state. This year, we also had the opportunity to present “Legislator of the Year” awards to key legislators who have a commitment to protect our practice law, FS457.
Last month, all 3 Florida organizations - the Society, FAA and FSOMA joined together to descend upon Tallahassee and make our voice heard!
For me, this year marks 19 years going to Tallahassee and representing our profession! When I became licensed, I never imagined that being a political activist was part of the job.
In 1996, after becoming licensed, at the encouragement of my mentor, Dr. Hongjian He, I volunteered to chair FSOMA’s first Acupuncture Education Day in 1997. This was when our small profession of only about 700 licensees was pushing for legislative changes to our practice act. Of those licensed, only a handful of us were involved with the very delicate job of petitioning the legislature to open our practice act and bring our educational standards equal to the title of Primary Care Provider, which was already in statute.
For those that don’t know the history, prior to that time, you could get licensed with only 2 years of school and a high school diploma, OR a 2 year tutorial and a high school diploma.
After I graduated in 1996 and really started to understood our regulatory law; I realized that this needed to be changed. With more inquiry, I found that the leaders of our profession (FSOMA’s then president Danny Quaranto and the board) at the time were trying to make the changes, but they needed more help.
Since I was new in practice, and had a fair amount of free time, I jumped in and never looked back.
Acupuncture Education Day was put on the schedule, and my lobbying education began. I walked the halls of the Capitol pulling a wheeled cart stacked with printed research 4 feet high (There was no internet then to access with our phones - or PDFs to send via email - we were still DOS based!) Lugging that printed research to offices, I talked to anyone that would listen.
I worked diligently with FSOMA’s legislative committee and lobbying team at the time, Smith Bryan and Myers - one of the BEST in Tallahassee. Blistered feet, bleary eyed from fatigue, and feeling lost amongst the most powerful in the state - I was committed to get this done. I HAD to - I knew our Primary Care title was at risk if the educational requirements didn’t match the license.
I also knew our full scope needed to be defined. So for 3 years in a row, we were able to make the changes and really clarify our scope and education to match that of a Primary Care Provider. Much to our surprise, there were opponents to the changes. We didn’t let that stop us. We worked hard those years and it was well worth it. The outcome resulted in one of the best practice acts in the country!
Here’s one quick story from that time that still makes me chuckle…. during those early years, before the gift ban, we gave out - to every legislator - Baoding Balls (Chinese exercise balls). They were presented to every office. Needless to say, we were the talk of the Capitol through that entire session! I can still hear the whispers in my head:
“The acupuncturists gave all the legislators “jingle-balls!”
Anyway, that’s some of the history, and I am quite honored and humbled to say that I helped define that history. The same way we ALL are part of making history in our country with how this medicine is used. Everyone who holds a license is making history in their community. Every person you treat brings us one more person towards complete integration into our American healthcare system. Right now, in many areas, we are more of a “boutique” practice, even though Oriental Medicine has already been proven effective in China for public health. Together, we can continue to guide how we are perceived.
All those that attended this year’s Acu Ed Day and rode the bus from Miami, are helping make history. By continually getting out there, year after year, our voices are being heard. They recognize us, and look forward to our arrival.
Acupuncture Education Day has become THE legislative event of the year, thanks to the support of all 3 state organizations. After taking a break for a few years, Acu Ed Day has come back with stronger support than ever before.
For me, 20 years later, my political activism experience is much different now than back in the 1990s.
The Society’s lobbyist, Ramon Maury of Maury Management Group, has taken me personally into the “inner circle” of the political world in Tallahassee. This level of interaction was introduced to me 4 years ago when Mr. Maury was kind enough to offer his help to the Society, and proceeded to introduce me around the Capitol.
I had never experienced this level of lobbying. In the past, I was given a schedule of when to be where, and left to my own abilities to find my way.
Since working along side Mr. Maury, I’ve had the pleasure of having him escort me to appointments in the Capitol, as well as just “stopping by” various legislators’ offices. This year, he even got a Representative to leave the floor of the House while in session, to come out and speak with us. Another one left a committee meeting to meet with us, after receiving a text from Mr. Maury.
In the past, when I would try “stopping by” a legislator’s office, I would be cheerfully greeted by their staff; I would have a few moments to introduce myself and reason for being there, they would explain how busy the Representative/Senator is, and that they would let him know I stopped by.
That’s not all. He even brings me along to the various social events during my trips to Tallahassee. This year coincided with the Miami/ Dade delegation being in Tallahassee for their legislative week, and boy do they throw a great party week! First there was the Pig Roast, and then Mambo Night, and the private “after party” that we attended! The Governors Club is also a great place to network and meet the “movers and shakers” in our state.
I have to say, having this level of lobbying service 20 years ago would have made that experience way more fun - but I probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much today!
We have pictures from this year’s activities in Tallahassee, many with legislators, check it out on our web site! http://www.fsdom.org/#!gallery/c1rrv
As always, make sure you are supporting and protecting your license by maintaining membership in a state association. We are the only ones showing up in Tallahassee and protecting your license as well as our own.
The Society is currently running a special for all state association members. If you want to join the Society, and are already a member of FAA or FSOMA, we have decided to deduct your organization’s member fee from our member fee. To enjoy this discount, email me for verification and a discount code.
Dr. Mary Riggin, LAc, DAc, AP, DOM
President, Florida Society for Doctors of Oriental Medicine
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