Why is being an advocate so important to you?
In my position as Vice Dean for Education and Academic Affairs at the University of Minnesota Medical School, I oversee the continuum of medical education including medical students, residents, fellows and practicing physicians. In this role advocacy is a critical aspect of my job, and puts me in a position where I can make a difference. This is especially important to me as 70% of practicing physicians in the state have had at least some of their education at our medical school. This provides an opportunity to impact the physician workforce of the state and consequently the health of Minnesotans.
What health-care related issue(s) have you advocated for over the past year?
I have been an advocate for designing medical education to improve patient outcomes, and to evaluate the effectiveness of medical education by the quality of care our graduates deliver. Admittedly this is a stretch goal but it drives a different form of conversation away from grades, national board scores and pass rates to improving patient care. We have established a Medical Education Outcomes Center to provide a structure and process for achieving this goal.
Partnering with MMA, I have also been an advocate for expanding the primary care workforce and engaging community practitioners as educational partners and role models for medical students. Also, our group, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health, has a special interest in understanding why and how learners choose future practice locations with an emphasis on rural practice. The better we can understand why students choose rural practice the more effective we can be in advocating for policies and aligning resources to incentivize these choices.
As a practicing nephrologist, and as Past-President of the American Society of Nephrology, I have advocated strongly for improving the care of people with kidney diseases. A critical outcome of this advocacy was the signing in 2019 of the executive order Advancing American Kidney Health. This was the first ever executive order focused on a specific disease state with the goals of: 1) reducing the risk of kidney failure; 2) improving access to and the quality of person-centered treatment options; and 3) increasing access to kidney transplants.
What advice would you offer to others who are interested in advocacy?
You can make a difference. Don’t ever hesitate to engage stakeholders to help with your advocacy with the most powerful group of advocacy partners being patients. It is also important to advocate at whatever level fits the issue whether it is local, national or international. Finally, as attributed to Winston Churchill, “never, never, never give up”.