1. Why is being an advocate so important to you?
When people are asked why they want to become a doctor, probably the most common response is “Because I want to help people.” In that regard, there are many ways to help people. As physicians, our voices matter, on both a local level and beyond. Our communities place their trust in us to advocate for their health and well-being, and as a Family Physician, I find that there are numerous things that impact a person’s health that go beyond the exam room or patient encounter. I advocate on multiple levels for my patients because they are my community, and advocating for them is advocating for myself and all those that I care about.
2. What health-care related issue(s) have you advocated for over the past year?
Data shows that individuals who live in rural USA are more likely to develop hypertension, and our community had one of the highest rates of uncontrolled hypertension in our health system. To improve hypertension control in our patients, I requested grant funding to provide patients with blood pressure measuring devices for self-measured blood pressure monitoring and coordinated telehealth follow-up for medication management and counseling.
I also advocated for offering a new cervical ripening agent which has improved obstetrical access in our community.
I advocated for improved patient access to colon cancer screening by offering an on-site drop-off location for testing kits rather than having patients drive to different locations without access to public transportation and have seen an increase in completed screens due to patients utilizing this service.
I have spoken to medical student groups about the importance of rural medicine in hopes of recruiting the next generation of rural physicians.
I have met and discussed with state representatives, ways to improve and fund home care services in our community, especially for our senior citizens.
I have also advocated for starting a medically supervised weight management program in our community.
3. What advice would you offer to others who are interested in advocacy?
Advocacy is important not just because as physicians we elected and are trained to be caregivers and healthcare stewards, but because our communities depend on us to advocate on their behalf. Advocacy does not have to be a grand endeavor, nor does it have to produce desired results at that moment, sometimes speaking up is all it takes and a small nudge over time can make the necessary impact.