April 19, 2013
Panelists (seated, from left) SF Bay Area PSR Vice President Dr. Jeff Ritter- man, President Dr. Robert Gould, Kathleen Gillis, FNP, and Ingrid Pampolone, PA-C, Highland Hospital; with Callum Rowe, UC Berkeley Extension AMSA Community Service Chair (standing, far right)

Panelists (seated, from left) SF Bay Area PSR Vice President Dr. Jeff Ritterman, President Dr. Robert Gould, Kathleen Gillis, FNP, and Ingrid Pampolone, PA-C, Highland Hospital; with Callum Rowe, UC Berkeley Extension AMSA Community Service Chair (standing, far right)

By Callum Rowe, UC Berkeley Extension American Medical Student Association

What does it mean for physicians and other health providers to be advocates for the community, and how can medical and allied health professional students be trained in this skill? Seeking to answer this question, SF Bay Area PSR and UC Berkeley Extension’s American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter hosted a panel discussion entitled “Healthcare Providers as Community Advocates.” The speakers included Drs. Robert Gould and Jeff Ritterman, SF Bay Area PSR President and Vice President, respectively; Kathleen Gillis, FNP; and Ingrid Pampolone, PA-C from Highland Hospital in Alameda. The speakers focused on their own personal experiences, including what drew them to healthcare and how that led them to the social justice work they do today.

Dr. Ritterman opened the panel describing his experiences as a cardiologist in Richmond. He illustrated the connection between the rise in sugar consumption and the myriad of health issues faced by America’s youth, and how this led him to propose the first citywide soda tax in the nation. Dr. Gould spoke about his experience growing up with employer-provided healthcare from his father’s municipal job in NYC, and his later surprise to learn when in medical school that such access to cheap and adequate healthcare was far from the norm in the U.S. He gave a passionate and colorful history of his and PSR’s activism against nuclear proliferation and militarism, including work in the American Public Health Association (APHA) Peace Caucus.

Ms. Gillis spoke about her medical mission experiences to Kenya and Haiti and described her involvement in the formation of a medical disaster response team with other healthcare professionals at Highland Hospital. She also spoke about her time working at a Bay Area RotaCare Clinic in Mountain View, which serves the uninsured. She encouraged the students in attendance to volunteer at RotaCare and especially to serve as Spanish interpreters. Ms. Pampalone described her decision to enter PA school and her commitment to serving the population of Alameda County. She explained the challenges of working in Highland Hospital to provide high-quality medical care in situations where patients do not have homes or money for prescription co-payments.

Those who attended the event included pre-health students, active and retired medical providers and community activists and organizers. There was a strong interest, by all participating, to take part in future events on a range of public health topics. Dr. Henry Abrons, Board President of the California chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, explained the work of his organization and discussed with student participants the possibility of holding an event contrasting a single payer health care system with the Affordable Care Act. Lucia Sayre, Co- Executive Director of SF Bay Area PSR, gave an overview of the Healthy Food in Health Care Program and invited students and community members to become involved in a broad effort to improve the quality of food in California health care systems.

UC Berkeley Extension’s AMSA chapter is excited by the prospect of partnering with SF Bay Area PSR to offer similar events, as there is no formal course in medical school that will teach us to use our training to advocate for the community. That skill will develop through inspiration from those who came before us, and the knowledge that a healthy, equitable society should be more than a dream but can be a reality.

To get involved in student PSR work, email action@sfbaypsr.org