First Tuesdays at the Capitol: A Personal Profile

By Jenny Shepherd, TMAA VP of Political and Legislative Affairs

Voting is over. Our officials are ensconced at the Capitol. And we have fewer than 120 days and counting to score wins for medicine. Many people in Texas think they have done their job. They went to the polls, and they voted for the candidate of their choice. And now they sit back and hope for the best. I voted in November, too, but I like to think differently. I like to think that we vote for what’s important to us every single day with our actions, our time, our voice.

Our actions as an Alliance speak volumes. We have a goal to let our legislators know we are ever-present by telling specifically what we, as the Family of Medicine, are doing in their districts. Did you know that last year alone, we fit – free of charge – 3,500 helmets in 14 counties to needy children, thus reducing the risk of head injuries? Our Be Wise – Immunize events promoted the importance of being vaccinated and administered almost 20,000 shots.

In Bexar County, donations of educational books were made to University Hospital so that low-income graduates of the Premature Infant Program could have a better start to life. In Lubbock, Alliance members are raising funds for the One Voice home, a recovery center for sexual trafficking victims, and have placed information in colleges and public places to reach victims. Nueces County sponsored fundraisers for medicine-friendly candidates, while Tarrant County’s Shower of Love provided newborn supplies for families in need. Book donations to Little Libraries, thousands of dollars raised for allied health scholarships ... the list of what we are doing in our communities across the state goes on and on.

As you can see, in our Alliance partnership with our elected officials, we are not just what I would call takers, only showing up wanting them to vote on “our side” on any particular issue. We are givers, selflessly offering our time, our efforts, and our money to make sure the communities where we live and work, and that they represent, get the best of what the medical community has to offer. And in return, we ask them to seek the guidance of TMA and TEXPAC when it comes to voting for the best interest of good medicine for all Texans.

We vote with our voice, too. Individual county alliances are gearing up to walk alongside the physicians from our communities at First Tuesdays. We are educated on the issues and are thinking about how they affect our lives personally. None of us wants our children in school with unvaccinated children, none of us wants to see our spouse burdened with unnecessary paperwork, none of us wants to see our spouse’s practice struggle or people not get the health care they need because the insurance corridors are narrow and health plan payment is dismal. First Tuesdays, postcards, calls, and emails from Alliance members all serve to make sure the voice of medicine is heard – loud and clear.

There is immense power when a group of people comes together to work for a common goal. We are proud to be part of the team. We are proud to work for medicine. And we are proud to make it part of our mission to show that medicine votes ... not only at the ballot box, but also in our community, and with our actions and our voices. Our Family of Medicine – TMA, TMAA and TEXPAC – are absolutely the right people for our legislators to partner with for a healthier Texas.

We look forward to seeing you at the Capitol on March 5, April 2, and May 7 to spread the message of medicine at First Tuesdays at the Capitol.

Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.

First Tuesdays at the Capitol: A Personal Profile

By Angie Donahue  

Donnahue 190

I look forward to attending First Tuesdays at the Capitol every legislative session. To me, First Tuesdays provides a unique opportunity to convey to my legislators that TMA/TMAA members are the trusted authorities on all issues affecting the health and well-being of fellow Texans, the practice of medicine, and the delivery of health care. 

Hopefully, they will see TMA physicians and Alliance members as informed advocates for Texas patients, and a group they can call on when they have questions about health care bills that come before them during the session.  

Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned attendee, the First Tuesdays format provides you with all the tools you will need for successful legislative visits. The TMA legislative staff presents easy-to-understand, concise information on the health care bills currently in play, along with supportive talking points.  My favorite part of First Tuesdays is walking the halls of the Capitol and seeing all the white coats — a powerful voice delivering the same, cohesive message on behalf of all Texas patients. It is a program that works!

First Tuesdays at the Capitol: A Personal Profile

By Keely Hunsaker, Nueces County Medical Society Alliance


“What is First Tuesdays?” I still hear this question all the time.  

First Tuesdays at the Capitol is the single most important thing the Texas Medical Association and TMAA do to improve and protect medicine and the health of all Texans. This grassroots advocacy event takes place the first Tuesday of February, March, April, and May, when the Texas Legislature is in session — always in odd number years, like 2019.  


How It Works
In Nueces County, we work continuously to cultivate relationships with our legislators, and to keep them educated about medicine’s issues. Before each First Tuesdays event, our medical society executive director sets up appointments with our elected officials in Austin so we can spend the day visiting with them. 

TMA and the TMA Alliance handle all the logistics of the day, making it easy for us to focus on visiting with our legislators. All we have to do is show up early Tuesday morning at the TMA building in Austin for breakfast and a legislative briefing by the TMA lobbyists. They put together a great program to spoon feed us current information on important issues evolving at the Capitol or hot topics occurring at that time of the legislative session. 

TMA provides handouts on each hot topic that we can leave behind with our elected officials. After the breakfast briefing, we take a three-block walk from TMA to the Texas Capitol. It is an exciting experience to walk the history-filled, beautiful halls of the Texas Capitol. Our elected representatives welcome us when we enter their offices. They listen to our physicians and Alliance members as we advocate for Texas medicine and the health of Texas patients.

Another highlight is sitting in the gallery to watch the pomp and circumstance of the day as our Alliance members and physicians in white coats are recognized and asked to stand. I have taken my children with me to experience being a “page for the day” in the House of Representatives. They get to be on the House floor and actually participate in Texas history being made, walk the back halls, and learn their way around the Texas Capitol.  

If you have never been to a First Tuesdays advocacy day or the Texas Capitol, please join us, and don’t worry about knowing what to do or say. We will take you with our well-informed group. All you need to do is show up.

Why It Is important
We have to stay active and vigilant to continuously protect our tort reforms and all aspects of Texas medicine. It is always under attack from all sides. THE FIGHT FOR MEDICINE IS NEVER OVER!

A life experience begins at the end of your comfort zone. So come have the experience of a lifetime, and make some Texas history at First Tuesdays!

You will make a difference!

First Tuesdays at the Capitol: A Personal Profile

By Patty Loose, Travis County Medical Society Alliance  

Here’s why I attend First Tuesdays at the Capitol, and why you should, too!

Although First Tuesdays has been in existence for quite some time (it began in 2003), it is still a bit of a mystery to some of our Alliance members. As Keeley Hunsaker explained in the last Monthly Memo, “First Tuesdays are the single most important thing the TMA and the TMA Alliance do to improve and protect medicine.”


But why should I go?  How can I possibly make a difference?

The difference you can make is simply by showing up. Your attendance, as a constituent, tells your legislators you care about and want to help protect the practice of medicine. And this is before you've even said a word.

How am I going to know what to say?

Now, that’s the best part!  As part of the TMA family, we are fortunate enough to have a highly skilled lobbying staff who will help educate us as the legislative session advances. Each First Tuesdays begins with a briefing of the bills filed and the issues to be concerned about.  

I’m still not sure …

If you can’t make it to the briefings or you’re still unsure if you should go, please talk to Jenny Shepherd or me. Let us help you become a part of the team. Whether you need someone to tag along with or you’re just not sure about the issues, we can help. I promise that after attending one First Tuesdays, you will begin to understand the difference that you, as an Alliance member, can make.   

First Tuesdays at the Capitol: A Personal Profile

By Martha Vijjeswarapu, TMAA vice president on community health; Nueces County Medical Society Alliance (NCMA) advisor to President Elizabeth Velleman; and co-chair, NCMA legislation  

We, as an Alliance, have the privilege of being part of something amazing. It starts with a desire for our voices to be heard, and First Tuesdays at the Capitol provides the perfect vehicle.

First Tuesdays at the Capitol was started by our very own Susan Todd, a Fort Worth Alliance member. It has grown into a recognized event within the Texas Medical Association and TMA Alliance, as well as by legislators and their staff at the state Capitol. First Tuesdays is a day we can go to the Capitol and meet with legislators and staff on important issues for the Family of Medicine and our patients. While the Texas legislators will meet for 140 calendar days, First Tuesdays is only four days out of the entire session, but it makes a remarkable impact.

TMA has a great lobbying team at work throughout the session, but when the halls of the Capitol are filled with physicians in their white coats, and Alliance members are there to support the lobbyists, it echoes loudly through both chambers of the Capitol.

In this session alone, TMA expects more than 1,500 pieces of legislation that could affect medicine. Issues range from how Texas physicians practice medicine, to scope of practice, balance billing, and insurance network adequacy to public health issues such as raising the age to use tobacco, including vaping, to 21. The other big issues will be Medicaid expansion, the mental health crisis, vaccine-related issues, and maternal mortality. But the only bill lawmakers are required to pass is a balanced budget.

If you have a desire to make a huge impact for the present and the future of medicine, then please join us for First Tuesdays on Feb. 5, March 5, April 2, and May 7, 2019.

There is no pressure to talk. You will meet your legislator with a group of individuals from your House or Senate district who know what to say. Your presence makes a powerful statement. Please register now and reserve your hotel room to become a part of the conversation for the future of medicine.