Archives     Advertise     Editorial Calendar      Advertiser Index     Subscribe     Contact Us    


Dr. Patrice Harris: First African American Woman to Lead Nation's Oldest Medical Organization


 
Patrice Harris, MD, MA

When Patrice Harris, MD, MA, was growing up in rural West Virginia, she wanted to be a pediatrician. But there was no role model in her family who had been to medical school ... no one to give advice on how to pursue a medical career ... and women of color were not encouraged to pursue careers in the medical field.

But she persisted. At first Harris looked at becoming a medical technician and then was steered by a counselor and her family toward a career in nursing. It was discouraging, she said. While nursing is a noble profession, it was not what she wanted. She earned her undergraduate in psychology and master's degrees in counseling psychology from West Virginia University ... and ultimately her medical degree in 1992.

And in June, she was sworn in as the 174th president of the American Medical Association, the first African American woman to hold the position in the country's oldest medical organization of physicians.

"It's a privilege to be the first," Harris said during an interview at the 44th annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Miami, Fla. "I consider the opportunity (to be president) to be evidence that women can aspire to leadership. You can be a physician, and you can be a leader. It is a big responsibility, and part of my job is to make sure I'm not the last."

Harris was also a panelist at the conference during a 90-minute session exploring health inequities. Access to healthcare is a major issue that the AMA is looking at, she said. "We want to get to equity, but you have to look at other issues as well to see how they are connected to the patient getting healthcare. We need to look at housing, transportation, and whether or not the neighborhood of the patient is a food desert."

She added, "We want people to have meaningful, affordable healthcare. We need to build on what we have. Ninety percent of people in this country are insured."

The AMA is also seeing an increasing number of suicides in communities of color, Harris said. She works primarily with children up to ages 19, and bullying remains a huge issue. She said non-educational screen time needs to be limited for young people. In today's world, when children make a mistake, everyone knows about it, she pointed out, adding that can lead to major problems for children.

Harris also discussed where the AMA stands on the opioid crisis and gun violence. "Mass shootings do not equate to mental illness," she stated. "Hatred is not a mental illness." And studies show people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence rather than the perpetrators, she said.

Harris also noted, science and data do not support that playing video games leads to mass shootings. The AMA recommends background checks and more research on gun violence and the effect on families and communities. Harris added, the Dickey amendment passed by Congress put a damper on funding research and said the CDC needs funding to learn more about what works regarding gun violence. The AMA also supports laws passed by several states allowing family members to temporarily remove guns from someone who may be at risk as a danger to themselves or others.

Harris is well known for her work on the opioid crisis. She chairs the AMA's Opioid Task Force, which was established in 2014. During her year in office, she said she would like to amplify the work already occurring in that area. "Prescriptions have decreased, but deaths have increased. That is related to lethal doses of illicit fentanyl and heroin being in the marketplace," she said.

"We are laser-focused on treatment. We also need to increase treatment opportunities. The infrastructure needs funding, and we need to eliminate barriers to people getting treatment.

"And insurers need to pay for on coverage," she continued. "Treatment for opioid abuse should be on par with other diseases. In Pennsylvania, insurers have eliminated prior authorization for patients who need this therapy. Other states need to look at it, also."

Access to healthcare for those living in rural communities is also of great concern. "A larger segment of the population is uninsured for those living in rural areas. What helps now is having Medicaid. The hospital can be reimbursed," she pointed out, although not every state expanded their Medicaid population under the Affordable Care Act. "Transportation can be an issue; telehealth can help but it has to be used appropriately."

In addition to spreading the word about the AMA's work, Harris said she will be working to improve the health of the nation. She also wants to bring to the forefront the importance of mental health care into the overall health of an individual. She would also like to raise awareness of about the lifelong adverse impact childhood trauma can have on a person. To get the best outcomes for healthcare, Harris said it is important to have a relationship with your doctor and make sure your records follow you and they are up to date.

On the professional side, Harris said she will continue to talk about health equity and also look at the diversity of the physician workforce. "We need more diversity in more specialties," she added. "For example, black men do better when they have physicians that look like them." She also wants to make sure all physician voices are heard. "Physicians have an important role in helping to shape policy," she said pointing to the work of the AMA House of Delegates, which advocates on behalf of physicians and their patients at the federal and state levels.

As for what advice Harris would offer to young people interested in pursuing a medical career, she noted: "Follow that dream, follow that goal, work hard where you are. Make sure you have a good science background but also a diverse background so you understand the broader context of healthcare. You need to have good grades in history, philosophy, the social sciences."

Harris added, "We older folks have to make sure we create an environment for young people to succeed. We have to make sure opportunities are available for them."

WEB:

AMA

Dr. Harris Bio

AMA Opioid Task Force

AMA Opioid Task Force Progress Report PDF

 
Share:

Related Articles:


Recent Articles

New Study Identifies Gaps in Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder as Overdose Emergencies Soar

Opioid overdose deaths have reached record highs and emergency physicians have a vital role in potentially saving these patients by prescribing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) such as buprenorphine, and by prescribing naloxone, a rapid-acting medicine to reverse an overdose.

Read More

HealthStream Acquires Rievent Technologies

Leveraging its hStream open architecture, HealthStream expands its ecosystem with a powerful continuing education management and delivery application

Read More

INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY: LOCAL PEDIATRICIAN TERRI WHITE DEDICATES TIME TO HELP CHILDREN WORLDWIDE

International Volunteer Day is a global celebration of volunteers. It takes place every year on December 5 to shine a light on the impact of volunteer efforts everywhere.

Read More

Tivity Health Takes Meaningful Steps to Keep Seniors Engaged, Connected

At first glance, SilverSneakers might appear to be 'just' a fitness class ... but dig a bit deeper, and it's clear this class is actually a community keeping participants active and engaged.

Read More

AMA Adopts Policy to Combat Public Health Disinformation by Health Care Professionals

New policy aims to address spread of rampant disinformation amid COVID-19 pandemic

Read More

AMA Adopts Policy Aimed at Strengthening U.S. Public Health Infrastructure, Opposing Limits Placed on Public Health Officials

New policy calls for consistent, sustainable funding, a robust public health workforce, and data modernization

Read More

Managing Risk of Cyber Incidents

Cyber threats are here to stay -- and they continue to be one of the topics keeping senior management up at night. With breaches and ransomware attacks still occurring at high rates, the healthcare industry continues to be significantly impacted.

Read More

American Cancer Society, Meharry Team Up to Change the Narrative

Meharry Medical College is one of four HBCUs partnering with the American Cancer Society.

Read More

Navigating Cancer Care

Nashville startup Thyme Care is proving to be an innovator in the cancer navigation space.

Read More

ONcology Rounds

New treatments, research and leadership - Middle Tennessee has a lot going on in oncology care.

Read More

Email Print
 
 

 

 


Tags:
AMA, American Medical Association, Health Equity, Mental Health, Opioids, Patrice Harris, Physician Leaders, Physician Spotlight, Psychology, Rural Health
Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: