Delivering Testimony

Developing Testimony:

A Training Document With Examples

Testimony is a powerful tool, with the power to bring the text of a resolution alive with debate and discussion. It is a unique and irreplaceable way for a medical student to learn the skills of patient advocacy, professional leadership, and ultimately public speaking skills. While the idea of “giving testimony” may sound daunting and intimidating at first, it need not be a scary process! It is simply a way to voice your perspective on a given issue.

The input from our members is essential in order to continue to evolve LMSA’s mission and lead initiatives for the betterment of Latino health. “The special needs of Latinos, whether U.S.-born, foreign-born or undocumented, are too often left out of the health care reform discussion.”[1]

Thank you for your time and interest in this training, we are so happy you took the initiative to participate in the process. Now to begin, here are some guidelines, strategies, and examples for what makes a strong, persuasive, and coherent testimony.

First, the basic testimony template format….
Just like an oral presentation, the delivery of testimony is semi-structured. This keeps the process consistent and makes it quite doable!

Step 1:

  •  Address the Policy Chair of the LMSA Congress who gave you the floor and thank them.
  • This is the format of the AMA testimonies and we want to follow their professionalism.

Ex: “Thank you Mr./Madam Policy Chair.”

Step 2:

  • Introduce yourself
    • It is important to identify if the ideas you are presenting are representative of a larger group, organization, etc, for example if your position has been endorsed by your school, state, or region.
    • The Reference Committee makes recommendations based on the context of the support/opposition they hear, and a statement coming from a region holds a lot more weight than from one individual.

Ex: “Student X, speaking on behalf of University of X as author (or reader) of this resolution”

Step 3:

  • Summarize in a few words the resolution you are going to be speaking of.
    • Do not restate the whole original resolution, be concise and focus on main idea of the resolution.
  • Address the pertinent who, what, when, where, and how. The questions the audience needs in order to understand the resolution.

Ex: “I am speaking in support of the… ” 

” I’d like to speak today about…”

“I’d like to address the resolution to alter policy writing vocabulary and replace the term “illegal immigrant” with “undocumented citizen” in legislative discourse.”

            Who – undocumented citizens

                What – Change in policy vocabulary

                       Where – in legislative discourse and policy making

                               How – by replacing it with undocumented citizen

 

Step 4: The WHY!

  • List arguments for support to the resolution – limit to 3 separate arguments
  • To avoid losing audience’s attention, stick to three main supporting points.
    • Personal or clinical experiences, historical precedent, and research findings are effective and compelling ways to support your position.
    • Avoid vague statements, over generalities, stereotypes such as:

Ex:  “Calling people “illegal immigrants” is wrong.” or “All people who use the term “illegal immigrant” think migrants are a burden or are racist.”

Argument 1– Using the blanket term “illegal immigrant or aliens” dehumanizes individuals, brands them as outsiders and criminals, and contradicts our goal of eliminating bias and achieving equity and inclusion in healthcare. The term “undocumented citizen” avoids judgment, disparaging connotations, and denotes belonging to society. To quote Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “no human being is illegal.”

Argument 2- The language and tone we use does have an impact in the development of equitable health policy. For example, on the state of California’s health insurance website, they use the term undocumented persons to describe individuals eligible for a form of low income state insurance. On the state of Arizona’s health insurance website, they use the term “non-qualified aliens” to describe how the low income state health insurance is not available to this population of AZ residents. Within these distinct political spheres, California public state medical schools such as UCSF and UCLA have accepted undocumented students, whereas public state medical schools in Arizona are not supported by state legislatures in this endeavor. We must change the tone of the discourse to change the policies implemented thereafter.

Step 5:

  • Finish with concluding sentence.
    • This would be a good time to address any opposition or conflicting thoughts to show the audience you are aware of and can respect another perspective or opinion. However you still feel the way you do because of “…”

Ex: “Therefore, although all documents and leaders using the term “illegal immigrant” may not have negative aims or intentions to disparage the undocumented citizen, I still support the initiatives to remove the term “illegal immigrant” from public discourse to support inclusion for undocumented citizens in US society and healthcare.”

 


Tips to make testimony more effective

  1. Write it down – You can fall into two traps when giving oral testimony – testimony may become rambling and unfocused or you may forget what you want to say. To avoid this, write down what you want to say and have it available to read at the reference committee hearing.
  2. Rehearse your testimony before delivering to make sure it sounds just as effective when spoken as it does on paper.
  3. Virtual Reference Committee – please review the submitted resolutions in the virtual reference committee online, and ask questions beforehand via email and online comments. Questions can inquire on supporting evidence, possible positive or negative effects of implementation, cost of implementation, effectiveness, etc. Overall, this process brings forth issues earlier and helps the testimony process flow much more smoothly in person.
  4. Anticipate counterarguments It is important to anticipate counterarguments and prepare effective rebuttals ahead of time. When responding to counterarguments, maintain a level of professionalism, counterarguments are meant to be personal.

 


Basic Template – Resummarized

“Thank you Mr./Madam Policy Chair.”

“Name, speaking on behalf of (myself/school/state) as author of this resolution.”

Brief summary of the issue.

List arguments for support to the resolution – limit to 3 separate arguments.

Finish with concluding sentence.

 


Developing support for your resolution

Familiarizing LMSA members with your resolution before you formally present it gives you an opportunity to establish a support base in the audience for when you present your resolution.

  1. Consult and share your ideas for your resolution with your local medical school’s chapter members, LMSA members in your region, and policy committee members in your region. They may have extra insightful input to add or different phrasing that you would like to incorporate. You can generate rich discussions by simply sharing your thoughts. Getting input from others is a good way to sense if the resolution resonates with LMSA audience, and circulate it in LMSA networks. This begins garnering support for the resolution long before the Policy Summit.
  2. Present your resolution to the Regional Policy Chair of your area. Regional policy chairs should be available to consult on specific regional concerns and give input to resolutions of its regions members, and should be a liaison between regional and national.
  3. Participate in the Virtual reference committee. This is a chance for people to view your resolution and comment with possible critiques or suggestions. Fielding their questions early and improving your resolution before policy summit will make it more robust.
  4. Have a mentor, advisor, medical school faculty and physicians, look over your resolution. This will you give you confidence on your resolution’s content, and address any inconsistencies or issues from a clinical, experienced perspective. It will also strengthen your resolution when you present, the more people you can say are behind your resolution, especially practicing physicians with similar LMSA interests, the more powerful and persuasive it will be.
  5. Have tele-skype meetings with other policy members. Feel free to ask national policy chairs, such as internal policy chair or VP of Policy, to consult on your resolution, we can offer feedback, and forward it along to other regions working on similar issues and connect you for collaboration.
  6. Attend the pre-policy summit meeting at LMSA Policy Summit. Hours before the official event, this informal meeting is a great chance to network and meet your fellow policy writers before the big event. Speaking about your resolution 1:1 in a more relaxed setting will set the stage for the policy debate later in the evening. People will remember you and your resolution, and the dedication you had to come and speak of it ahead of time.

As the saying goes, 80% of success is simply showing up, have presence and make yourself known early.

 


Following up on Resolutions:

Once you’ve written a resolution, you can take steps to ensure your resolution is not just a written statement but a model for action.

This is why we write resolutions, to follow up on them and make improvements. Writing powerfully worded policy is good step for visibility and raising awareness of an issue, but following through on your resolution is one of the most meaningful things you can do to make real policy change

This can be done on many different scales.

  • Start by suggesting and organizing ways to support the principles of your resolution. Create awareness of your resolution within your local school chapter, chapters within your region, or LMSA National. Your resolution can serve as a model for something LMSA can help accomplish. It should have tangible means to work towards the goal, for example through discussions with local policy makers, school faculty, through volunteerism and community action.

Resolutions can serve as a framework for your chapter and region to plan events, begin discussions, and network with others with similar goals. Here are some examples of how resolutions have been followed up on in the past.

For example, DACA Resolution:

RESOLVED, that the LMSA strongly encourage medical schools, residency and fellowship programs to clarify their DACA admission and match policies; and be it further

RESOLVED, that our LMSA supports regulatory relief to DACA eligibility in the absence of comprehensive reform as seen by the Executive Action declared in 2014, and be it further…

Ways to support:

Meetings with diversity deans to discuss DACA eligibility and lobby for change, supporting DACA events in local community events, scholarship fundraising, Op Ed pieces submitted to local newspapers, policy pieces or even formal publications.

Currently following the resolution, a taskforce of LMSA students in the Midwest are working on a publication for JAMA, recruiting students to research and write about DACA in medical education.

RESOLVED, that our LMSA recognizes the effects of sugar sweetened beverage on health outcomes in the young Latino population; and be it further

RESOLVED, that our LMSA releases a public stance against sugar sweetened beverage advertising and its consequences on metabolic syndrome incidence among Latinos

Ways to support:

Nutrition volunteer programs for LMSA, and attending local health education fairs. Partnering with local community organizations, like university and community diabetes prevention program for children, and speaking to local news outlets to increase awareness via media outlets

 


 

Current topics in health policy for LMSA Students to be involved in:

  1. Border Health Policy Initiatives – Healthcare in detention centers, migration & Health of Latin Americans in the United States
  2. Affordable Care Act Implementation & Impact on Latinos – Health care coverage and access for undocumented citizens
  3. Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities through cultural competency and language proficiency training for physicians, medical students and allied health care providers
  4. Education gaps in Latino populations – speaking of mentorship programs, ESL learning programs, nutrition in Title I schools, and Latino culture curriculum
  5. Latino patient education – chronic disease prevention

References:

[1] As William Vega, Ph.D., co-director of the Network for Multicultural Research on Heath and Healthcare at UCLA

 


Sources for further review: