Single Voice Advocacy – A message from CAHS Dean Stephen Thomas

Dr. Stephen Thomas

Dr. Stephen Thomas

I recently published my second article on allied health in the North Carolina Medical Journal. The latest article entitled “New Initiatives in Allied Health in North Carolina” (see here) is another opportunity to educate the medical professions about the allied health professions and the important role we play in health and health care delivery. We all know the issue – allied health by name does not represent who we are as well as titles such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy. I am often asked “What is allied health?” and I give my quick “elevator speech” in which I name several of our departments and then the light bulb lights up—they understand. That often leads to a more in depth and engaging discussion about allied health professions.

I have often referred to allied health as an” alliance” of smaller but significant health professions that, collectively, are larger than medicine or nursing. By themselves, they are unable to bargain as effectively as the larger professions of medicine, nursing and dentistry. Therefore, they form an alliance in order to garner their fair share of the health and health care resources, particularly in higher education. I recently attended a Southern Association of Allied Health Deans Meeting at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where I was employed in my first professional position in their rehabilitation center in 1970 (I felt like I was going home). At the opening session, their allied health dean, Dr. Elizabeth Protas, referred to the method for addressing this issue as “Single Voice Advocacy.” That phrase has stayed with me. It offers a very direct approach for our College to effectively advocate for our professions and educate other health professionals, and the public, about the critically important roles of the allied health disciplines within this alliance, and our significant role in the successful and cost-effective delivery of quality health care.

Single Voice Advocacy was the motivation behind my desire to write the article for the NCMJ. As dean, it is my role to promote the high demand disciplines within the College of Allied Health Sciences. That has always been and will always be a core responsibility of my job. I would like to close by challenging each and every one of you to use “single voice advocacy” when sharing the value of the allied health professions with other health care providers and the public. With the many changes occurring in health care, it is the professional disciplines within allied health that can help deliver cost-effective, high quality, and patient-centered health and health care services throughout our state and nation.