Frederick M. Chen, MD, MPH, spent nearly 25 years in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington and more than a decade as Chief of Family Medicine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but after more two years of working through the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Chen was ready for a change.
He found what he was looking for at the AMA.
Dr. Chen joined the AMA as the new Director of Health and Science in July. He spoke about what he sees as today’s most pressing public health challenge and what excites him about the next generation of physicians on a recent episode of “AMA Update.”
Gun violence, climate change and COVID-19 continue to be priority issues today, Dr. Chen said, but in his eyes the most pressing concern is the relationship between doctors and public health.
“One of the things I was most excited about taking on this role was the opportunity to help renew public confidence in science, medicine and public health,” he said. -he declares. “We really need to redouble our efforts and reinforce the idea that we doctors – and the AMA – are the trusted source of information. I think that’s the best way to support our public health infrastructure.”
Dr. Chen acknowledged that the public health response to a pandemic was always going to be a challenge, and in the case of COVID-19, the response became even more difficult as the issues became politicized. But patients still trust doctors.
Physicians were the second most trusted profession in a 2021 Gallup survey. Yet physicians must work to continue to instill and maintain that trust, which Dr. Chen said ultimately comes down to. relationship building and communication.
“Patients trust you as a doctor, they expect you to be the expert and the knowledgeable,” he said. “And they expect answers that you need to have a solid foundation in science and medicine. Building that trust with patients is at the heart of what we do.”
He sees his new role with the AMA as helping to help doctors do just that, especially as the country continues to grapple with COVID-19 and its aftermath.
“People are tired, and I think we have to recognize that,” he said. “Nationally and globally, COVID is not over. We’re not done and it’s not over with us. We must continue to celebrate doctors and healthcare workers for the work they have done and how much we rely on them. and continue to rely on them.”
In Dr. Chen’s eyes, this celebration also includes embodying WADA’s mission statement to pursue the improvement of public health. This means helping physicians access up-to-date educational information and public health connections, while also pursuing national advocacy efforts to help physicians practice better.
“These are the real key elements as we continue to recover from the pandemic,” he said.
While Dr. Chen cares about doctors and public health, he is excited about future doctors who grew up and went to medical school at this key time in American history. They learn about the social determinants of health, and many of them are motivated by issues of health equity.
These terms are all common parlance for the next generation of doctors, he said.
“For them to come to medicine with a clear understanding of the connection between individual patient care and what affects their communities, the activism and advocacy that is part of that is really empowering and very exciting,” said Dr. Chen.
“AMA Update” covers health care topics affecting the lives of doctors and patients. Hear from physicians and experts on public health, advocacy issues, scope of practice and more, because who speaks matters. You can watch each episode by subscribing to the AMA’s YouTube channel or the audio-only podcast version, which also features educational presentations and in-depth discussions.
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