Thomas E. Kottke, MD, MSPH imageMarch 2023 Advocacy Champion

Thomas E. Kottke, MD, MSPH


  • Medical Director for Wellbeing, HealthPartners
  • Senior Clinical Investigator, HealthPartners Institute

1. Why is being an advocate so important to you?
Being an advocate is important to me because Minnesota is my community, and I know that a physician’s voice is a powerful force to make the lives of others better. Advocacy for the health of others provides me with meaning and purpose, essential components of well-being.

2.  What health-care related issue(s) have you advocated for over the past year?
Over the past year, I have continued a 40-year campaign to eliminate the health and economic burden of tobacco and nicotine products. Early in my career, I would not have predicted that I would have spent the last ten years working to improve the health and well-being of Minnesota infants and children. I have particularly enjoyed working with the Healthy Black Pregnancy group to eliminate the racial and ethnic disparities in birth experience and outcomes. I chair the Board of Directors of Face to Face, an organization that has provided health and counseling services to homeless youth for more than 50 years. Finally, I would mention that I serve on the Board of Directors of Protect Minnesota, as I advocate for policies that can end the scourge of gun violence in our state.

3.  What advice would you offer to others who are interested in advocacy?
When I was in training, a patient suffering from an acute myocardial infarction could smoke in bed. Only after 20 years of campaigning did hospitals become smoke-free. We won that fight but have more to do against an industry that repeatedly reinvents itself. Pick an issue that is important to both you and your fellow Minnesotans, but be prepared to engage for decades.