By Dr. Julie Taylor, Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs
Like many of you, I chose medicine as a profession so that I could help people. During medical school, I decided that I wanted to take care of mothers and babies together because I observed that the health of parents directly correlated with the health of their children (and vice versa). I chose family medicine as my specialty so that I could become an expert in maternal-child health (MCH), mother-infant dyads, moms and babies, and young families. During my clinical training and in public health school, I then became an expert in breastfeeding medicine.
During my career in academic medicine and in my current role as President of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), which is a worldwide organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding and human lactation, I am privileged to do a lot of advocacy which is the theme of this issue of Clinical Connections. So what does advocacy mean?
Advocacy is defined as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy” or “the act of speaking on behalf of or in support of another person, place, or thing.”
And what does advocacy look like for me, one of your deans?
In the United States, I have advocated for individual patients with their employers as they return to work and for medical students with their supervising faculty (not surprisingly, breastfeeding can be especially challenging during surgery clerkships!). I have consulted with medical schools and veterinary schools to build programs that are family-friendly for their students. In my home state of Rhode Island, I have worked with human resources departments at large employers to make workplaces healthier and more friendly for working mothers. I’ve written legislation and testified on behalf of young families at the state level and I’ve been a speaker at ABM’s annual Breastfeeding Summit in Washington, DC, which helps to shape relevant U.S. policies under the Obama and now the Trump administration.
Left to right: Dr. Jerome Adams, Indiana Health Commissioner, Dr. Julie Taylor, Mrs. Karen Pence, Second Lady of the United States, and Dr. Haywood Brown, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and AUC Board of Trustees member at the Annual Summit on Breastfeeding in Washington, DC.
Outside of the U.S., I’ve dropped in at the UNICEF London offices to talk about ABM courtesy of an invitation brokered by one of AUC’s UK faculty. In 2016, I was privileged to moderate an international #InvestinBreastfeeding media roundtable in Copenhagen, Denmark that was organized by the Helen Keller Institute in conjunction with the Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative, an effort co-led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. In conjunction with my MCH colleagues at Brown University, I’ve developed a website for mothers in medicine called Mama MD. In addition to helping one patient and family at a time, imagine having the ability as a physician to impact the health of whole companies, communities, countries, and continents through policy changes.
As the current President of ABM, each month, I sit at home (or on a plane to or from Sint Maarten) and I write about various activities going on in our global physician organization ranging from World Breastfeeding Week activities to Women Deliver initiatives. Each month, I send that piece to ABM’s publisher, Mary Ann Liebert, in New York and a few months later, it appears in ABM’s journal, Breastfeeding Medicine, which is published 10 times a year and sent electronically and in print to doctors in more than 50 countries. At the the Academy of Women's Health Congress this past April, I was able pull out that journal, point to my name, and share my writing process with several AUC students who were in attendance. It was a memorable experience.
I hope that you are inspired by this issue of Clinical Connections and the opportunities available to you as a medical student to participate in and contribute meaningfully to advocacy during your career. In addition to learning your clinical skills, a few pieces of advice:
Find your passion
Identify a mentor
Develop your speaking and writing skills
Share your voice
Make a positive impact
I speak for the entire AUC family when I say that your success is our success so please let us know what we can do to support your professional growth and development with respect to advocacy.