The simple answer...being a doctor is NOT enough.
Early in my career I knew that I wanted to be on the front lines of patient care, playing quarterback for men and women as they navigate through the healthcare system. Much of that desire rooted from observing the unfavorable interactions my Haitian immigrant parents had with health care professionals. Through my family’s experience and years of community work, I realized that the practice of medicine often went beyond treating disease. Therefore in July 2017, when I entered academic medicine as a general internist, I wanted to be a community leader, and figure out how to do primary care the “right way” one patient at a time.
Fast forward nearly 3 years since entering medical practice, I feel defeated. With limited time to interact with patients, build trust, and learn important details, I’ve realized that primary care doctors are basically cornered into continuing the status quo. Healthcare practice just seems to be a revolving door with little emphasis on addressing social needs of patients but merely a focus on checking boxes, generating revenue, and practicing medicine like an assembly line. I’ve watched as this methodology has led to hospital readmissions, medication misuse, and distrust among my patients.
In the face of witnessing the realities of practicing in a system that does not have a focus on health equity, I knew just seeing patients wasn’t enough. If I wanted to change the system, make it better, especially for black patients; I had to approach things differently. It was time to think globally so I could prepare to develop, advocate, and make decisions at any level of policymaking. But to accomplish this, I needed to step back in order to move forward in the right direction. Health policy training was the only way for me to move forward.
As stated by the World Health Organization (WHO), “Health policy refers to decisions, plans, and actions that are undertaken to achieve specific health care goals within a society. An explicit health policy can achieve several things: it defines a vision for the future which in turn helps to establish targets and points of reference for the short and medium term. It outlines priorities and the expected roles of different groups; and it builds consensus and informs people.” These health care goals look different for various communities and need to be applied through an equitable lens. It is not a one size fits all. This is why someone like me, a Black physician needs to make this shift! This pivot couldn’t have come at a better time.
With the mishandling of the Coronavirus pandemic, we see why and how health policy and prevention is so important. More fundamentally, we see how vulnerable populations and communities of color have been set up to fail. I have personally witnessed this with the loss of my father and mother due to #COVID19. A tragic experience that led to the birth of my campaign Not Just A Black Body!
Translation...the stage has been set and there is only one way to respond, WITH ACTION!
I’ve never regretted choosing primary care. Actually my patients and the relationships I have had over the last 3 years are exactly why I am doing this! I want to give them more. I want to help give black patients a system that allows us to fight for them and not against them. The Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Minority Health Policy helps me to begin to do exactly that. Advocate for justice through policy changes that are tailored with us in mind.
I am excited for this transition and look forward to sharing my journey with you all.
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Let's change the world together!