Dr. Omar Atiq, new ACP president, and Dr. Eileen D. Barrett, new chair of the ACP Board of Regents, share a commitment to improving ‘health care for all’
May 19, 2023 (ACP) — While their backgrounds are as different as their specialties and the states where they live, the new president of the American College of Physicians and new chair of the ACP Board of Regents share a commitment to improving the lives of both patients and physicians.
“I am grateful to be a part of numerous ACP endeavors to improve health and health care, and I take special pride in sharing in the efforts to validate health as a human right,” said Dr. Omar Atiq, professor of medicine and otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and new president of ACP.
For her part, internal medicine hospitalist Dr. Eileen D. Barrett, the new chair of the ACP Board of Regents, said she looks forward to advocacy “related to addressing burnout and professional dissatisfaction through restoring agency in our professional lives, reducing administrative burdens and creating equitable and just workplaces. I am also looking forward to advocacy on safer gun laws and improving access to care, including reproductive and mental health care.”
Atiq to Focus on Promotion of Healthy Living, Efficient Health Care for All
Atiq is board-certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine and
has been an active member of ACP for more than 30 years, dating back to his internal medicine residency. “ACP represents the conscience of medicine and is the preeminent professional home for all internal medicine physicians, specialists and subspecialists,” he said.
Atiq grew up in Peshawar, Pakistan, and came to the United States after graduating from Khyber Medical College at the University of Peshawar. “Bucking the trend of heading to the United Kingdom for postgraduate training, I came to the United States, as I believed then — and I believe now — that it provides the unrivaled medical training in the world.”
For Atiq, Arkansas lived up to its nickname as The Land of Opportunity. He worked in community oncology practice in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, from 1991 until 2000 and served on the Arkansas State Medical Board and as president of the Arkansas Medical Society. He also served as a member of the ACP Board of Regents and governor of the Arkansas Chapter of ACP.
Atiq's areas of professional interest include national health reform, Arkansas health care access, health care disparities and payment reform. His ACP advocacy has reflected these priorities: He has served as chair of the ACP Health and Public Policy Committee and vice chair of the ACP Ethics, Professionalism and Human Rights Committee.
As ACP president, he said, “I plan to continue to build on the meaningful and impactful policies advancing the promotion of healthy living, both physical and emotional, and provision of efficient health care for all, without any exclusion. And I will support preserving the hallowed patient-physician relationship without any external intrusion.”
He added: “I hope to utilize my background and experience as a subspecialist in private practice and in academic medicine, and as a Muslim international medical graduate from Arkansas, to advance the conversations between our stakeholders to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions to multifaceted and nuanced issues hindering health and health care in our country.”
Barrett Helps Others Advocate for Patients, Physicians
Barrett moved to New Mexico after training on the East and West Coasts so she could work for the Indian Health Service. She has now lived in the state known as the Land of Enchantment for almost 18 years.
“I went to work for the Indian Health Service after residency because I believe in the mission and the work,” she said. “Also, it really appealed to me to be able to practice full-spectrum internal medicine — in the primary care clinic, the hospital and the ICU.”
She switched to being a hospitalist in 2011 and then returned to the Indian Health Service after a few years in academia. “I am back in the Indian Health Service and see inpatients in a rural hospital on the Navajo Nation,” she said.
Barrett joined ACP as a resident because “it was known to be the standard bearer in education,” and she renewed her membership as an early-career attending to preserve access to the top-tier educational programming.
“Then, in 2007, I decided to run for a position on our chapter council and was elected,” she said. “Soon afterward, I received support from our chapter to attend Leadership Day and was absolutely hooked on participating in the policy and advocacy work.”
She is especially proud of helping others advocate for patients and physicians. “I also had a very rewarding experience working with my own chapter leadership on advocacy with the medical board to improve how our medical license application asked about mental health,” she said. “Those efforts were successful in 2018, and I was fortunate to be able to advise colleagues in another state on their efforts that were also successful.”
When asked if there is something ACP members should know about her, Barrett offered this:
“We are stronger together, and our diversity is a gift. That more unites us than we know.”