Are you your home’s “chief medical officer”?
If you’re a woman, your answer is probably yes. Women don’t just make 80% of the purchasing decisions at home; they also make up about 70% of the health care workforce.
So what does health care mean to you? A woman’s active role in the health of her family, in her community, and at her workplace—especially if she works in health care—literally keep our world going.
We talked to a few of our own health care leaders to share their thoughts. What’s your story? We hope you’ll share yours, too, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. April Hartman, division chief of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, grew up in a home where her family couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. “We lined up with the other neighborhood kids to get our vaccines at the health department as we picked up our government cheese block, and if we got sick, we just kept going,” she said. “In case of emergency, we used the ED. If something hurt, we were taught to ‘Stop whining!’”
The first doctor she remembers seeing was the one who diagnosed her father with renal cancer. He didn’t seem to care about her family, she recalled. “I knew my father was in pain all the time, but he didn’t complain even when, to my young mind, the doctor didn’t help him,” said Hartman. “When he died, I swore I would be the type of doctor who cared for people and their families and took the time to listen and make sure they were OK.”
Today’s medicine can be a lot of waiting and then hurry up. But Hartman says that when people care and fight to improve something they believe in, that’s when change happens.
“The good news is that as we embrace value-based care and patient-centered care, we seem to be coming full circle and realizing it’s not just what you do to take care of a patient but how you do it,” she said.
“When asked what health care is to me, I can’t help but respond—no matter how corny it seems!—that it is caring for the health of the children I serve. Caring enough to be available when the mom wants to know what to do about a fever. Caring enough to stop and listen to the knock-knock joke the little boy just learned and thinks is hilarious. Caring enough to fight to make health care something great again.”
Dr. Saroj Sharma, an internist at Augusta University Health’s Fury’s Ferry clinic, agrees. For her, it really does start with women. Even more than that, it starts with self-care. “Health care is physical and mental well-being, and it’s very important that a woman in the family stays healthy, so she can take care of the health of other family members.
“That means a healthy diet, physical activity and exercise, and regular visits to a physician to prevent and screen any health issues at the right time—before it interferes in the routine life of women and family.”
In the Community
“I view health care as a continuously changing system that supports the health of the nation and population by active prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment of diseases, and rehabilitation after the treatment,” she said. “It reflects the complex changes in our society, economy, and technology. Today, for example, I focus on patient-centered care that has been significantly fueled by the information and technology advances. Patients now have instant access to health information via various mobile devices. As a result, patients are better informed and more active participants in their health care.”
In her role helping couples grow their families, she says she feels a special responsibility to bring together medical knowledge, experience and technology resources to improve her patients’ quality of life. “Health is a state where people may achieve their goals in life. For many of my patients, it means becoming parents of a healthy child or children,” she said. “Today, the results of infertility treatment such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, are incredible: Pregnancy rates have doubled compared to 10 years ago, and commonly only a single IVF cycle is needed to accomplish the couple’s reproductive goals compared to repeated cycles in the past. Also, multiple gestations are rare these days, while in the past being a norm.
“I feel an enormous potential in the technological revolution human society and medicine has been undergoing. For example, these days, I am able to provide infertility care via telehealth reaching out patients living in rural areas or urban cities in the U.S. and abroad. I am thrilled to be a part of the incredible journey that the U.S. health care system, myself and my patients have been through for the last 20 years. I truly believe the best is yet to come.”
At Augusta University Health
Katrina Keefer, chief executive officer at Augusta University Health, was born in Tifton, Georgia, and raised in Monroeville, Alabama—both small towns where, she says, neighbors were always willing to lend a helping hand. That led to missions work while attending school at Huntingdon College and an interest in public policy that led her to New York University for a master’s in public administration, where she learned that health care issues have no quick fixes. “That’s when I realized that health care was where I needed to be,” she said.
While there’s still work to be done, as CEO, she says that health care means a systemwide commitment to better health and well being that spans the entire continuum of care—not just physical health, but also emotional, spiritual and financial.
“From lifesaving care for critically ill babies, to preventative and primary care services for children and adults, to innovative treatments for chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, our caregivers are here to guide patients and families at every step in the health care journey.”