How Internal Medicine Physicians Impact Public Policy

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Discover the unique leadership roles, career pathways and impact of internal medicine physicians.

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As experts in the prevention and management of adult health conditions, internal medicine physicians can impact public policy by advocating for public health initiatives, improving access to healthcare, contributing to policies that manage chronic diseases, collaborating with health organizations, conducting research on adult health issues, influencing medical education policies, and improving public awareness. By leaning into their relationship to patient care, internal medicine physicians are uniquely positioned as valuable contributors to shaping policies that address the health care needs of patients and their communities.

Here are some examples of ACP members making contributions to improving public policy and patient care:

Fighting for patients outside of the patient room

Celest M. Newby, MD, PhD, FACP

Clinical Assistant Professor and Academic Hospitalist Celest M. Newby, MD, PhD, FACP works in both a clinical capacity and in the health policy, advocacy, and equity space. Her work in public policy is largely influenced by the health inequities and injustices she sees every day working with the unhoused population and with patients living with substance use disorder, patients who are incarcerated, and those who are underinsured.

She believes “The encroachment of laws on the patient–physician relationship is very concerning to me, and I fear this will lead to poorer health outcomes for vulnerable populations,”. Her recent work fighting for legislation that improves the prior authorization process is one example of how Newby is working to provide lawmakers with real-world examples of how policies and laws impact patient lives.

“I like my patients to know I am fighting for them not only in the clinic but also in the halls of the State House and in Washington, DC.”

Using her role to impact policy at the local and national level

Ariel Jordan, MD

Ariel Jordan, MD is an upcoming gastroenterologist fellow at the University of Michigan and always  knew she wanted to be a gastroenterologist after advocating for the passage of the Georgia Restroom Access Act, a law that provides public restroom access to individuals with medical conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which requires emergent bathroom access.

Her experience as an IBD patient as well as mentorship from gastroenterologist Dr. Jami Kinnucan led Ariel to become involved in the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, where she serves on the Board of Director for the Michigan chapter, and committee positions on the Government and Industry Affairs Committee and Professional Membership Committee. She also serves as a national advocacy leader.

Ariel aspires to be a gastroenterologist–health services researcher with a focus on IBD and use that role to impact health policy at the local and national level.  This past year ACP recognized Ariel with the 2022-2023 ACP Joseph E. Johnson Leadership Award for her efforts as an advocacy champion for the Irritable Bowel Disease patient community.

Ending inequities through policy development

Rita Kaur Kuwahara

Not only does Rita Kaur Kuwahara, MD, MIH work as a primary care physician, she is also the 2022-2023 Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies Congressional Health Policy/STEM Fellow serving in the U.S. Senate. Her motivation to become an internal medicine physician closely matches why she feels compelled to do public policy work––she’s passionate about addressing the health needs of patients and communities and working to end health care inequities. She also believes that by being a part of this work, she ensures that people in her community have a seat at the table and that diverse voices contribute to the decisions being made.

This marriage of her two passions is seen through Rita’s approach to patient care—forming partnerships with her patients to address their health needs, empowering them, and also working to end inequities through policy development on a local and national level.

“As a Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate, this year I am using my expertise as a primary care internal medicine physician to work on health care legislation and address national health policy issues on Capitol Hill,” Rita shared.

Her interests within public policy include access to affordable medicines and health care, health equity, social determinants of health, health care for Asian American and native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander American communities, and creating opportunities for future leaders.