1. Why is being an advocate so important to you?
I have spent most of my career advocating for patients and health care professionals and insurers to view medical care, behavioral health, and public health as one integrated health experience and enterprise. Since retirement, I have been a member, and recent Chairperson, of the Board of Directors for the Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center (HVMHC) that provides mental health and addiction recovery services for citizens of 5 counties in southeastern Minnesota.
At a practice level, I have been a volunteer once or twice per month at CARE Clinic, a free clinic (FQHC “Look Alike”) in nearby Red Wing, MN, where I have provided direct care and supervised clinical trainees. However, I will be ending my practice there next month as they have recruited more volunteer physicians.
2. What health-care related issue(s) have you advocated for over the past year?
Over the past year I have advocated for the HVMHC to become a “Certified Behavioral Health Care Home”. With Federal and State support, this certified care and payment model encourages more integrated care across mental health, addiction and medical care services. I have also joined others in advocating for this model with legislators and community leaders.
I’m also currently advocating for optimal health and health equity through my work on the MMA Foundation’s Board. Of course, the MMA Foundation has been at MMA’s side for a long, long time and has made a great impact through scholarships and volunteerism and other pursuits. More recently, our MMA Foundation Board has actively re-imagined our work to intentionally leverage physician expertise and philanthropy to drive increased health equity. I’ll give you some worthy examples. In response to the COVID lockdown, we raised $28,000 to provide emergency grants to our state’s shelters to help them feed and house our unsheltered neighbors. Early this year we leveraged a legacy gift to create a scholarship fund that will equip and empower Minnesota medical students to be part of the next generation of advocacy leaders by supporting their work to drive meaningful policy and structural changes. We also recently created Changing the Face of Medicine, a dedicated campaign to support initiatives that tear down the barriers that stand in the way of too many whose dream is to become a physician. And, we recently started two community health micro grant programs to support and empower physicians to lead community health projects at the local level.
I am also a volunteer member of the small annual review team that evaluates the applications for the MN Department of Rural Health and Primary Care Loan Forgiveness Program. This program supports primary care physicians and psychiatrists who practice in mostly rural or a few urban areas of physician shortages and poor access to care.
On a broader health scale, I have remained a member of Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate (HPHC), a group that engages all types of health professionals in learning more about climate change and methods of changing our culture toward a more sustainable future. Several articles authored by leaders of this group have appeared in Minnesota Medicine over the past several years.
On a very local level I have become an active member of Kiwanis, a local community service group. Our purpose is to support healthy growth and development of children and young adults through various local projects, food drives, scholarships and community activities. For the past year I have served as President of this group.
3. What advice would you offer to others who are interested in advocacy?
Each of us can find a health-related area on which we can focus some energy toward improving individual and public aspects of health. Whether that is related to improving health care systems, health care policies, or public and professional education, adding a physician’s voice to the public discourse can help move a discussion toward responsible action. But, we must be well informed and persistent.