June 07, 2023

Heersink School of Medicine student receives travel scholarships for advocacy trip to Capitol Hill

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Laura Minton GartonIn May 2023, rising MS4 student Laura Minton Garton received travel scholarships from the Alabama Academy of Radiology and the UAB Caduceus Club for an advocacy trip to Capitol Hill. Garton spent one week in Washington D.C. attending the 100th annual American College of Radiology (ACR) meeting and speaking with U.S. Senators and Representatives about patient-centered radiology care.

According to Garton, co-founder and president of Women in Radiology Education (WIRED) and president of the Radiology Interest Group, she feels honored for the opportunity to attend ACR’s milestone 100th meeting. This organization seeks to foster communities of experts within the field to represent the voices of the radiology profession. Garton finds this mission relatable, as she aims for WIRED to highlight women’s voices throughout her profession.

“I founded WIRED at UAB when I realized that I wanted to honor and elevate the women in radiology in the midst of the gender gap in radiology,” Garton says. When she began medical school in 2020, Garton learned that only one out of every four radiologists are women, despite medical school graduation rates being nearly equivalent between men and women. To help close this gap, she and WIRED co-founder Cathy Chen, M.D., have used their interest group to mentor women, introducing them to radiology earlier in their medical careers.

garton trip 1Regarding her experience at the conference, she notes, “We reflected on the incredible growth of the past century and marched forward on Capitol Hill with plans for the future.” After listening to a talk from Dr. William Flanary about his medical school experience and personal health battles, Garton spent an evening researching the No Surprises Act. This federal law, effective in 2022, protects patients against surprise medical bills, an aspect of the medical profession Garton is passionate about.

Garton included the No Surprises Act as a discussion point when speaking with United States government officials. She was the only medical student of the eight on the Alabama delegation team who met directly with U.S. Senators and Representatives. She spoke about patient care across Alabama, Appropriateness Criteria implementation, and H.R. 2474 Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act, advocating for conversion factor replacements to the Medicare physician fee schedule. Citing 16% of Alabama’s population living in poverty, Garton highlights her commitment to the underserved in medical care throughout the state.

Garton trip 2“I realized how fulfilling advocating is for me, on so many levels,” she notes. “Advocating involves being aware enough to notice problems and inequalities, spending days reading and researching, and learning how to communicate in a way that encourages others to see and understand your perspective and experiences--or the perspectives and experiences of your patients.”

After this trip to Washington D.C., Garton realizes how much the experience has impacted the future of her career. She describes her time advocating for patients as fulfilling. “I hope and plan to advocate for patients at Capitol Hill for the rest of my medical career, which makes me feel motivated, inspired, and excited for the future.”

Garton has been recognized for her national work in radiology, receiving the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) Scholar Award. This merit-based honor is earned by women in doctoral degree programs who contribute to their field(s) and positively impact the society around them.

Click here to learn more about the Alabama Academy of Radiology and here to learn more about UAB Heersink School of Medicine’s Department of Radiology.