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Home | Word from the President: Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP

Word from the President: Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP

June 16, 2021

What a year the last year has been – the murder of George Floyd and recent convictions of Derek Chauvin, increased attention on racism in our community and country, the pandemic, decreasing vaccination rates, border immigration issues; the list goes on and on. In a sense, all of these issues are related to the need for advocacy, which is what I want to focus on in this message to you as MNAAP members.

Throughout my career I have encouraged trainees and my younger colleagues to find something they are passionate about in health care, outside of their clinical practice, and spend some time on this topic. For me I was fortunate to fall in love with bioethics early in my medical career and stuck with it over the next 36 years. I found that I also enjoyed practice management – something I was involved with for 25 years. More recently, I have found myself spending more time on advocacy, which has been equally rewarding. 

In my opening remarks at this year’s Virtual Pediatricians’ Day at the Capitol, which about 120 individuals participated in, I mentioned that advocacy is defined as “any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others.” I went on to give examples of what this might look like, from writing letters to the editor, being involved with an organization that advocates for social changes, posting on social media about important issues, getting out and non-violently protesting, or more classic advocacy at the legislature. That legislative advocacy can include working with legislators to craft bills, testifying for or against a bill or writing letters of support or against a bill. Being involved with our own chapter can also provide multiple opportunities to do advocacy. In fact, our chapter is committed to protecting and advancing the health of every child and adolescent in Minnesota through advocacy, education and special projects. And don’t forget about involvement with the National AAP through its many committees and sections.

 I encourage you to consider attending next year’s AAP Leadership Conference. I recently had the opportunity to attend this year’s conference with 13 other pediatricians, residents and medical students from Minnesota and it was great. It was energizing and educational. We also got to hear Stacey Abrams from Georgia, who was phenomenal. If you ever get the opportunity to hear her – do it! As one of the other speakers said, “Pediatrics is not just a 9-5 (or 7-6!) day. We all need to advocate for our kids all the time.” My charge to all of you is to simply get involved in whatever way you are comfortable doing and with whatever time you are able to devote. 

I want to give you an update on our anti-racism work. At our March special board of directors meeting and then at our April executive committee meeting, we approved and started working on six initiatives from the anti-racism taskforce:

  • Identify a chapter Diversity and Inclusion champion
  • Refresh/revise anti-racism resources on our the MNAAP webpage
  • Work with Reach Out and Read to include more anti-racism books
  • Combine our chapter Poverty and Disparities Work group with the now concluded anti-racism taskforce into a standing committee for the chapter
  • Figure out how to make sure all of our policy and legislative advocacy is done with an equity lens
  • Begin our internal review of all chapter policies and work to look for things that may need to be addressed and corrected

I would also like to suggest for your reading, two very thought-provoking recent articles:

“Firearms Injuries Involving Young Children in the United States during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” (Cohen JS, et al. Pediatrics. April 13, 2021,  https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-042697)

“Prolonged Emergency Department Length of Stay for US Pediatric Mental Health Visits (2005–2015)” – discussed increased length of stay for Hispanic youth. (Nash KA, et al, Pediatrics. April 2021,  

https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-030692) 

Finally, at our May 6 chapter board meeting, we were fortunate to be joined by AAP Board member, Dr. Joseph Wright, who gave a great presentation on, “At the Intersection of Equity, Science, and Social Justice: An Inflection Point for Organized Medicine.”  His talk was very powerful, thought provoking and provided a wonderful framework for the anti-racism work our chapter is doing, which Dr. Wright was very impressed with. 

Be well and have a great summer and let’s keep working to get this pandemic under control. 

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