Our Role as Influencers

October has been a busy month for Internal Medicine. It began, as I mentioned in my last post, with Progress, the two-day multidisciplinary conference, and the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Iowa Physiological Society. That week was followed by impressive showcases of innovations in research and clinical care: our 51st Annual Research Day, Heart Failure in the Heartland, and Current Topics in Allergy & Clinical Immunology. And this week, members of our department worked with representatives from multiple colleges throughout the University of Iowa to present the 5th Annual Quality & Safety Symposium. I recognize the significant investment of time and resources events such as these represent, and I commend the conference organizers for their commitment to collaboration, outreach, and education.

Outreach can take many forms, and one that does not always get the attention it deserves is advocacy. We are uniquely positioned as experts in the field of medicine to offer our opinion on issues of importance to individuals with the capacity to effect change. We may be hesitant or believe that our voice cannot make a difference, but I believe we underestimate our influence, authority, and often our responsibility when we do not speak out. As a department of a public institution, the Department of Internal Medicine must be circumspect in taking public positions, but that does not mean individual members should not seek to influence public policy. I frequently contact our congressional leaders as a constituent regarding matters of concern to our mission. I was pleased to see this week that Dr. Helena Laroche, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, co-authored position statements with other members of the Society of Behavioral Medicine appealing to Congress to increase funding for Medicaid and CHIP and to protect funding for SNAP, WIC, and school lunch programs. I appreciate the time Dr. Laroche took to contribute to these documents. I encourage other department members to write that letter to the editor, or directly to your elected officials, that you might have been thinking about, to engage with your professional societies, to volunteer with advocacy groups, and to contribute your knowledge and expertise to help shape public policy.

OdorisioT_OdorisioSMany of our faculty continue to receive recognition for their role as influencers. In Philadelphia last week, the North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society (NANETS) held its annual symposium. At that meeting, Dr. Tom O’Dorisio and Dr. Sue O’Dorisio were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards. This is the first time in NANETS history that a couple has received the award. Dr. Sue O’Dorisio is the principal investigator of the first and only SPORE grant in the country to fund research into neuroendocrine tumors. Her husband and lifelong collaborator, Dr. Tom O’Dorisio, directs clinical research in this project. Congratulations to our esteemed colleagues on this wonderful recognition of their remarkable careers.

Few at the University of Iowa have had the impact on public policy and health care in the state and in the country than Dr. Jean Robillard, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Carver College of Medicine. This week, an open house was held for Dean Robillard to honor his contributions to the institution. Video from that event, including the announcement that the MERF atrium will be named in his and Renée Robillard’s honor, can be seen here. I have been personally grateful for the opportunity to work closely with him, to receive his mentorship and to witness his ability to build consensus among large groups, realigning them toward shared goals. I have learned much from his leadership and wish him all the best as he continues to make a difference in individual lives, while his legacy will continue to change the lives of many, many others. Our new dean, Dr. Jay Brooks Jackson, has big shoes to fill, but I believe that he is more than up to the challenge. Dr. Jackson brings with him a great deal of experience and an excitement to lead our integrated health system and to move us further forward. His imminent arrival should remind us of the importance of all members of our enterprise, working together in a collaborative manner to jointly achieve our strategic goals. Welcome, Dean Jackson!

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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