Advocacy can take place at every level—local, state, federal and international. Physicians are uniquely qualified to advocate for their patients in times of hardship, distress, uncertainty and vulnerability. Patient advocacy highlights how physicians are fighting for their patients and the communities they serve. However, physicians can also advocate for each other by sharing their voice, contacting their representatives and lobbying on legislation that affects the field of medicine, patients and the care they provide.
Here are 12 women in medicine who are using their platforms to advocate for their patients and fellow physicians.
Tyeese Gaines, DO
As an emergency physician, journalist and physician executive in New Jersey, Dr. Gaines has a unique advantage. Through her 16 years working in the news industry, she feels that has been her way to advocate. It allows her to bring both physician and patient issues to light in mainstream media. With her media company, she aims to help other physicians do the same.
Krystal Tomei, MD, MPH
Working with the AMA allows Dr. Tomei, a pediatric neurosurgeon in Cleveland, to be a part of something bigger. She advocates to improve health care for her patients, their families and future generations. Dr. Tomei remains involved in several local branches of national organizations to raise awareness of some of the diseases that she treats.
While she was growing up, Strohbeen admired her family physician for always taking time to explain things to her as a child, as well as to her parents. Now a third-year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin, Strohbeen is a member of the AMA Medical Student Section. She moves medicine by writing resolutions, passing policy, supporting colleagues, and participating in local and national initiatives to serve communities and improve the health care system. (She was a second-year medical student at the time she was profiled).
Mary Carpenter, MD
Through the AMA Council on Legislation, Dr. Carpenter, a family physician at the State Health Department and Social Services Department of South Dakota, is involved in forming model legislation to enable states to deal with every aspect of legislation that affects the practice of medicine. During her nearly 30 years of being involved with organized medicine in South Dakota, she has helped shape how patients are cared for and the environment in which all physicians are able to practice.
Sohayla Rostami, DO
A general surgery resident in New York, Dr. Rostami’s advocacy efforts transcended to the international realm. She continues to engage with physicians in the Iranian Health and Medical Education Ministry to foster professional relationships between the American and Iranian medical communities.
Catherine Coughlin, MD
As a resident in Boston, Dr. Coughlin is a strong advocate for her patients. However, much of her work is focused on educating medical personnel on how to identify sex trafficking victims. She was provided with the opportunity to lead a session about human trafficking at the 2018 AMA Interim Meeting. (She was a medical student at the time she was profiled).
Marilyn J. Heine, MD
Over the last 25 years, Dr. Heine, a physician in emergency medicine and hematology-oncology, has focused on communication, grassroots advocacy, and involvement in organized medicine. Her initiatives have included calls to galvanize colleagues to act, letters to the editor and op-eds published in local and national papers, and social media. She also serves as chair of the physician advisory board for her Pennsylvania district’s congressman to bring together colleagues of different specialties to present issues that affect medical practices. She is also a leader of physician coalitions for pro-physician state and federal candidates of both major political parties.
Cyndi Yag-Howard, MD
With the belief that anything is possible with vision, determination, commitment and drive, Dr. Yag-Howard, a dermatologist in Naples, Florida, works with like-minded enthusiasts compelled by their passion to be agents of positive change in medicine and the world. She gets involved, both locally and nationally, in her community, organized medicine, legislative activism, charity work, medical education and as a volunteer for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Barbara L. McAneny, MD
Having served as the AMA president and receiving a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation award for the oncology medical home are accomplishments that Dr. McAneny is very proud of. She has worked for public health issues and created the New Mexico Cancer Center Foundation that helps patients with the non-medical costs of having cancer. The foundation has paid patient bills of almost $1 million. (Dr. McAneny now serves in the role of AMA immediate past president.)
Betty S. Chu, MD
Serving as president of the Michigan State Medical Society has allowed Dr. Chu to connect with physicians of all specialties, practice locations and demographics throughout the state and advocate on their behalf. As an ob-gyn, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs at Henry Ford Health System, she ensures that clinical resources are available, regulatory burdens are minimized and that they allow for physician autonomy to care for patients. (Learn more about how Henry Ford Medical Group moves medicine.)
As a medical student at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Benning is eyeing a future in obesity medicine. One of her goals is to learn how to design clinical and community-based programs to promote wellness, particularly in resource-poor communities. Because she completed most of her medical education in rural settings with underserved populations, finding creative and cost-effective ways to help people achieve better health is important to her.
Christine P. Bishof, MD
After participating in a volunteer program for the emergency department at the university hospital, Dr. Bishof couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Everyone who comes to the emergency department has fears about what’s going on with them. When Dr. Bishof can successfully identify and help alleviate those fears, all the headaches of the broken system go by the wayside.
This September, the AMA is marking Women in Medicine Month by celebrating trailblazers, advocates and leaders. Learn more about recent AMA advocacy efforts to address issues such as civil and human rights, and mental health.