2010 Physician Advocacy Conference

2010 Merit Award Winners Michael Gittelman, Deborah Frank, XinQi Dong, with David J. Rothman, President of IMAP


The IMAP Physicians Advocacy Conference brought together forty of IMAP’s former Soros fellows in New York City to discuss the role of physicians in advocacy work.

Opening the conference were presentations by IMAP’s three 2010 Merit Award winners – Dr. XinQi Dong of Rush University Medical Center, Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston University School of Medicine, and Dr. Michael Gittelman of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Dr. XinQi Dong, MD, MPH, is an Associate Professor of Medicine, Behavioral Sciences and Nursing who has conducted research on and epidemiological studies of elder abuse and neglect both in the US and China, with particular emphasis on its adverse health outcomes across different racial/ethnic groups. In addition to working within his local community, Dr. Dong has been working with the Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Aging, and the National Academies of Sciences on the issues of elder abuse and neglect. Dr. Dong spoke about the prevalence of elder abuse, an under-acknowledged crime that occurs far more frequently than is frequently recognized. He addressed the unique challenges faced by Chinese immigrants in the US and the cultural barriers they face, especially surrounding the detection and treatment of elder abuse. Dr. Dong gave an illuminating account of his own efforts in his Chicago community to deter elder abuse, including conducting community outreach, writing a column in the local newspaper addressing community health issues, and creating the Chicago Wellbeing Taskforce to train city workers, grassroots organizations and social service agencies. Dr. Dong concluded by expounding on the link between local advocacy and state - and nation-wide health policy.

Dr. Deborah Frank, MD, is a Professor of Pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine. She founded and continues to direct the “Grow Clinic” at Boston Medical Center, a multidisciplinary specialty clinic where she cares for children who suffer from malnutrition resulting from their family’s lack of access to food. Dr. Frank also serves as the leader of a multisite collaborative called Children’s HealthWatch. Dr. Frank spoke about the particular importance of maintaining a healthy diet for children between 0 and 3 years, highlighting the interventions she has been instrumental in developing to ensure that this vulnerable and frequently invisible population is well cared for. She stressed the importance of addressing the social determinants of health, identifying the risks housing and energy insecurity pose for child health and the difficulty of affording nutritious foods for poor families. Dr. Frank is also currently focusing on the impact of intrauterine cocaine exposure on children. She concluded by speaking about her recent efforts to oppose legislation mandating the arrest of pregnant women with addictive disorders.

Mike Gittelman, MD, FAAP, is a pediatric emergency room physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio and he is an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University Of Cincinnati School Of Medicine. He is a nationally recognized expert who has published extensively within the field of injury control. Dr. Gittelman spoke about the overwhelming share of pediatric injuries that are preventable, noting that they cause more deaths than all other diseases combined in children less than one year old. He identified the interventions that are successful in preventing injuries, including education, legislation, technology, and environmental modification. Dr. Gittelman went on to describe his own efforts, including the educational program he created for pediatric residents that addresses sports safety, firearm safety, playground safety, drowning prevention, and toy safety. He also spoke about the “Emergency Department Safety Store” he created to disseminate bike helmets, booster seats, smoke alarms and other safety products. Dr. Gittelman also established a local chapter of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, which has met with tremendous success in reducing injuries in the local community.

Dr. Dong, Dr. Frank, and Dr. Gittelman were presented with their awards by Dr. David J. Rothman, President of IMAP.

The conference included presentations by leading physician advocates and other professionals who have made their mark in the world of physician advocacy. Chris Hansen, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, provided a fascinating look into the issue of gene expression as a first amendment issue. Mr. Hansen spoke insightfully about the assertions he presented in court, arguing that genes cannot be patented. John McDonough, a health policy analyst on the verge of publishing a book about the passage of the recent national health reform legislation, gave a presentation on the “Ten Titles” of the law, addressing the political processes and the potential outcomes of the legislation that was ultimately passed. Dr. Thomas O’Toole, the Chief of Primary Care at the Providence VA Medical Center, spoke movingly about the plight of veterans who return from abroad and are unable to access health care, documenting the factors that lead to veteran homelessness and potential interventions. Francoise Girard, the Head of Public Health Programs at the Open Society Foundations, spoke about physician advocacy on the international scale, discussing the work the organization has funded toward protecting human rights abroad. Finally, Dr. Robert Crittenden spoke about the communication tools requisite for successful advocacy. He gave a captivating account of his experience running focus groups, using community based prevention as a case example.

The conference also explored curriculum change in advocacy, featuring presentations by winners of the 2009 IMAP Physician Education and Training Initiative grants: Esther Chung of Jefferson Medical College, Alice Chen of the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, and Mark Earnest of the University of Colorado at Denver School of Medicine. The 2008 winners of the Education and Training grants – Michele David, Megan Sandel, and Jessie Gaeta of Boston Medical Center, and Jeffrey Kaczorowski of the University of Rochester - discussed the achievements and challenges faced by their advocacy programs during their first years of implementation.


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