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  • Writer's pictureAssociation of Academic Physiatrists

Q&A with Mary Russell, DO, MS

Assistant Professor and Vice Chair of Quality & Compliance at McGovern Medical School/ UT Health Science Center, Medical Director of TIRR Memorial Hermann-The Woodlands Medical Center and Member of the AAP’s Public Policy Committee

How did you get started in your advocacy efforts?

Fortunately, I was nominated by the AAP’s Leadership Development and Recognition Committee to be a member of the AAP’s Public Policy Committee. I have really enjoyed learning about the advocacy efforts within the AAP locally and nationally. Personal advocacy efforts have been at a local level trying to inspire change in the stigma of brain injury recovery. I was a member of the trauma team, and assisted with care of brain injury patients at my institution. I worked to inspire optimism in those severe brain injured patients by promoting cognitive recovery and behavioral management while in the acute care setting, as well as following up with outcomes. The trauma manager even knows my “wait 28 days after TBI” spiel.

What skills learned during your medical training have helped you in your advocacy efforts? What new skills did you have to develop?

It definitely takes a global mindset. Osteopathic training certainly helped with holistic approaches and viewing things in terms of the whole person. Working with the Public Policy Committee takes that approach, but expands upon the whole specialty and medical field.

What challenges have you encountered?

Sometimes, there can be competing interests for lack of a better term. Different people or groups can have different goals and it can be good challenge to see the others’ perspectives!

Why do you serve on the AAP's Public Policy Committee?

My goal in serving on the Public Policy Committee is to learn more about advocacy for patients, training and our specialty. I would love to be able to continue to take what I’ve learned and apply it in my own personal practice and community. It is eye opening to learn the government processes and one project I enjoyed was working with the Committee on a letter providing feedback for Future Pandemic Planning Recommendations.

Should all physicians be active advocates? Why?

Yes, I absolutely believe that all physicians should be active advocates for our patients and our specialty. For example, if you’re not going to be advocating for your patients with insurance limitations, then they could be missing out on needed treatments or reaching that next goal.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

I am super fortunate to have amazing mentors in my training, practice and within the Public Policy Committee, who are fierce advocates. Even if you’re not involved in advocacy at a national level, you can still be an advocate for patients in the specialty where you are. The AAP is a great organization for getting involved in learning more about advocacy!

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