We sit down with Shawn Friesen, principal at Chamber Hill Strategies, to talk about advocacy strategy, relationships and what drives him.
What are some of your most impactful wins throughout your career in healthcare?
One of the first wins that I often think back on relates to the Medicare Modernization Act. During my time on Capitol Hill working for a member on the House Ways and Means Committee, we successfully included provisions for Medicare Advantage in the Act which was a huge win for us at the time. During my time at the American College of Surgeons, we got a surgeon appointed to the influential Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). This was a large collaborative advocacy effort that involved multiple teams, advocates, and the Mississippi delegation. Because of this effort, we were successful in adding a unique physician voice to MedPAC who understood the issues that both physicians and patients were seeing in operating rooms and hospitals. At the American Academy of Dermatology Association, I’m proud of the success we had in raising awareness of the importance of skin cancer screenings and prevention by reintroducing and growing an annual skin cancer screening event on Capitol Hill. More recently, I am proud of the progress that was made in securing provisions in the user fee legislation that will help improve regulatory processes so patients can access the medication they need.
You’ve navigated through diverse sectors within the healthcare industry starting with your role in government to almost two decades working with associations. What valuable lessons have you learned in adapting your advocacy approach when transitioning between these different environments?
It’s incredibly important that wherever you are, you find shared interests among diverse stakeholders, perspectives, or individuals. Sometimes those people aren’t aligned with you on some issues, but in healthcare, you often find there are other issues where you can work together on shared priorities. Most issues that we deal with daily cut across political parties, geographical regions, and differing perspectives. When advocating for any issue, it’s vital to use these shared interests to build a coalition or team effort to ultimately move that issue forward.
What are your favorite aspects of healthcare policy?
First, healthcare affects everyone of all ages, backgrounds, and political persuasions. It is an important component of everyone’s day-to-day existence. While there are many issues that people might feel removed from, healthcare and health policy effects apply to everyone—both individually and to people’s loved ones. Also, I’ve always been interested in the intersection of healthcare and the impact of different policies on the many small businesses that deliver healthcare services or products. I am particularly interested in how healthcare entities can be impacted as small businesses by different policies that we might not normally think of as healthcare policies.
What is your favorite aspect of advocacy as a whole?
I think that relationship building is simultaneously the most important part and my favorite part of advocacy. I also enjoy having the opportunity to always keep learning—whether through reading or from the experiences of others. Ultimately creating new relationships, growing deeper in old relationships, and finding opportunities to collaborate and work with others to achieve a goal that makes an impact is what I enjoy most about my work in advocacy.
How did you intentionally build strong relationships with stakeholders and former colleagues, contributing to the growth of your extensive professional network?
I have never been afraid to build relationships with people who have different perspectives and backgrounds than my own. Even though we may disagree on some issues—maybe even strongly—at the end of the day, we are people who care about many of the same things and those shared interests can provide opportunities to work together to achieve success.