When medicine becomes political

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the surge of sensationalized information on social media have intertwined medicine with politics more than ever. This shift has challenged medical professionals and healthcare advocates to navigate the balance between providing accurate medical information and avoiding partisan biases. Addressing this dilemma requires developing strategies to combat misinformation while upholding research integrity and raising critical ethical questions about the intersection of medicine and politics.

On Tuesday, May 14, we invite you to join our virtual Health Policy Symposium, sponsored by the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy and the Center for Professionalism, to hear from experts about this important topic. We will explore:

Keynote: The Political Doctor

Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir, former U.S. assistant secretary for health and recent author of “Memoir of a Pandemic: Fighting the Coronavirus, the Presidency, and Leadership,” in conversation with Baylor’s Dr. Vaso Rahimzadeh will detail his journey as a physician-scientist at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and how his expertise in the field of infectious medicine and government policy helped lead the United States in its COVID-19 response. He will provide insight into navigating and coping with criticism, managing different personalities and leadership approaches, politics and the relationship with the media, and how to promote better public health policy and practice for the future.

The Political Patient

In the next panel, we are joined by Baylor experts Drs. April Dione Adams, Joseph Kass, Susan Patricia Raine, with moderator Dr. Jean Raphael, who will provide insight into the intricacies of delivering healthcare in an increasingly politicized medical environment. The prominence of politics has reached the patient waiting room in real time. The panelists will explore effective strategies to facilitate a productive patient environment, how to address patients’ concerns about laws and policies, advice for clinicians when patients advocate for political positions that conflict with their beliefs and more.

Keynote: The Political Academic

Next, we will highlight how to balance your academic/research role with your involvement in political discourse and advocacy with Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of Baylor’s National School of Tropical Medicine, moderated by Dr. Laura Petersen. Hotez will highlight key takeaways from his recently published book “The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist’s Warning” and describe how to engage with differing perspectives while staying true to his research and beliefs.

Transcending Politics

The last panel featuring Baylor experts is with Drs. Mary Brandt, an emeritus professor, J. Wesley “Wes” Boyd, Ricardo Nuila and moderated by Dr. Stacey Rubin Rose, will discuss how to ensure more academics prioritize joy and fulfillment in their work, especially in politically charged environments. We will uncover concrete strategies with a focus on personal narrative and storytelling and look to the future about how the concept of transcending politics can and should evolve, the role of self-care, and how to empower the next generation of academics to effect change.

Where Do We Go From Here?

We will conclude by contextualizing the power of policy in future trends with the expertise of  Robert  Blendon, professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who analyzes the trends of polarization and discourse in the present sphere of public opinion. In the age of social media, growing empathy and compassion have become increasingly important in addressing the division that awaits. Dr. Blendon will shed light on public knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about healthcare as we enter the 2024 election season.

Register for the virtual event and check out the full agenda.

By Stephanie Agu, student helper, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine

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