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Resident Spotlight: Atul Nakhasi, MD, MPP

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We continue with the resident spotlight feature as a way to hear the perspective on organized medicine, impetus for going into medicine, and opinions on healthcare issues directly from our members.

This week Atul Nakhasi, MD, MPP shares his perspective on organized medicine and why he chose to focus on primary care.

Why Organized Medicine?

The physician-patient relationship is at the very center of effective medical care. We also need to make it the center of effective healthcare policy. Every day of the year, we as budding physicians defend our patients against disease. We come to the clinic to listen to their stories, hear their most intimate life details, examine their bodies, and offer them hope and comfort. But yet we stop shy of fighting for them when it comes to our local city halls, state legislatures, and the nation’s capital.

According to a Gallup poll, almost 75% of Americans expressed confidence in physicians to do the right thing in changing our healthcare system – more than academicians, commercial groups, or politicians. Only half as many felt that way about our congressional leaders. However, despite the strong trust of our patients, studies have shown that only 26% of physicians took any political action on healthcare issues and only 24% encouraged their professional society to advocate for a public health issue over that same time. In our AMA’s Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine’s Contract with Humanity, clause 8 states as one of our core duties: “Advocate for social, economic, educational, and political changes that ameliorate suffering and contribute to human well-being.” Let’s never forget that we as physicians are our patients’ greatest advocates – both inside the clinic and outside in our communities.

Why Primary Care?

In just a 24 mile-span across the city of Los Angeles there is a life-span difference of nearly 12 years between an individual living in the Palisades compared to Watts. This shocking gap in life expectancy is a reflection of our reality today in Los Angeles and the tremendous health inequities that still persist. Closing this gap will involve investing in a robust and vibrant primary care system for all of our patients in LA. After all, it’s in primary care where the foundation of good health is built and where the sacred patient-physician relationship begins and blossoms. Ultimately, the spirit of primary care is about caring for the whole person and giving that individual the best shot at life and at fulfilling their potential. This is why I went into primary care and what fuels my commitment to the field and my patients every day. And perhaps in time we can hope that the scruffy homeless veteran living underneath the bustling 405 will one day share in the same healthcare as the A-list Hollywood celebrity across town.

Bio:

Atul Nakhasi, MD, MPP, led the movement to triple the youth vote in 2008 helping catalyzing Obama’s historic victory during the Iowa Caucuses. His leadership was recognized by the Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, ABC World News, NPR, and BBC. Atul completed his medical degree at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and his policy degree at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he was named a Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. During that time, he served as the national chair for the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association and represented nearly 50,000 US medical students. He currently is a resident physician in the primary care track of the internal medicine program at UCLA Ronald Reagan hospital.

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