Dionne Hart, MD, DFAPA, Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine

February 2020


  1. Why is being an advocate so important to you? I trained at Mayo Clinic where the motto is the needs of the patient come first. The only way that happens is if you’re a patient advocate. Naturally, I have an avoidant personality. I would prefer watching a Law & Order marathon than going to a social gathering; however, when there’s an opportunity to improve patient access and healthcare outcomes I readily step out of my comfort zone to act. Unfortunately, as an African American woman I am aware of the stereotypes associated with assertiveness, so I have to be mindful to demonstrate compassion without appearing overbearing. It is also important that my statements are factual and informed by the perspectives of individuals who agree with my viewpoint and those who disagree.
  2. What health-care related issue(s) have you advocated for over the past year? In the last year, I authored new AMA policies to combat anti-transgender violence and to partner with TIME’S UP Healthcare to eliminate harassment and discrimination in medicine. I also authored new APA policy to educate the general public about safe disposal of prescription drugs thereby decreasing opportunity for misuse, abuse, or diversion. Locally, I’ve advocated for increased access to medication assisted treatment in underserved rural and urban communities and to raise the legal age for tobacco and nicotine sales to 21. During my last year as co-President of the Zumbro Valley Medical Society, I hope to increase the number of vaccinated children and in my role as co-chair of the MMA’s ED boarding work group, I hope to decrease the amount of time mental health patients spend in an emergency room. Finally, I remain involved in efforts locally and nationally to diversify the physician workforce.
  3. What advice would you offer to others who are interested in advocacy?  I would advise others to begin with small issues. Advocacy happens in the clinic or at the bedside every day. If you subsequently recognize an opportunity to address an issue on a larger scale, that’s when organized medicine can serve as your partner to make a larger impact on healthcare access and outcomes.