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These transformative leaders in healthcare are dealing with an unprecedented era of politics in the medical industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Texas abortion rights rally
A rally for abortion rights in Houston on May 7.
  • Insider identified 10 leaders transforming the healthcare industry in 2022.
  • They're facing off against misinformation, political attacks, and traditionalist methods of care.
  • Their contributions include providing gender-affirming care and tackling the spread of monkeypox.
  • 100 People Transforming Business is an annual list highlighting people across industries who are changing the way the world does business. Check out the full list for 2022. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the politicization of healthcare in America. But while the peak of the pandemic appears to be in the rearview, the healthcare industry has continued to be governed by political forces.

This year, healthcare focused on transgender people and abortion rights has come under attack. Doctors have had to navigate a minefield of changing regulations to provide lifesaving care.

Other healthcare professionals are using federal power to prevent the spread of infectious diseases other than COVID-19. 

It hasn't always been an easy — or safe — task. The World Health Organization estimates that 38% of healthcare workers will face physical violence at some point in their careers. Medical workers, especially women, are also frequently harassed online, research published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

As politicians wield healthcare as a weapon and doctors increasingly come under scrutiny for doing their jobs, some healthcare professionals are stepping up and speaking out.

Insider has identified 10 leaders across the healthcare sector, from traditional medicine to academia, who are hoping to be a force for transformative change within this essential industry.

Lifesaving treatments have been outlawed over politics 

This year has brought significant threats to the types of healthcare that clinicians can deliver.

Those threats reached a fever pitch when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an OB-GYN at Indiana University, put herself at the center of the national debate on abortion rights when she spoke out in a July 1 Indianapolis Star article about an abortion she'd performed on a 10-year-old girl who'd been raped.

The girl had traveled from Ohio, where she was no longer able to get an abortion, to get the procedure in Indiana. The patient's story went viral thanks to Bernard's advocacy, and Bernard began facing attacks against her career, including from Indiana's attorney general.

"I'm here to help people, and these threats make it that much harder for me to do my job," she wrote in an email to Insider.

Morissa Ladinsky
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky in 2014 cofounded the only gender-focused clinic for youth in the state of Alabama.
Debates over the rights of transgender people have also led to stark consequences in healthcare this year. In April, Dr. Morissa Ladinsky sued the state of Alabama, alongside Dr. Hussein Abdul-Latif and families of trans youth, to stop a law that banned gender-affirming care for minors. Under that law, doctors could spend up to 10 years in prison for prescribing puberty blockers and hormones to adolescent transgender patients. 

Ladinsky coleads the multidisciplinary gender team at the University of Alabama, the only gender-focused clinic for youth in the state, which she cofounded in 2014.

Gender-affirming procedures can be lifesaving care, since transgender and nonbinary people tend to experience more mental-health issues and suicidal ideation than their peers. One study found only about 1% of people who underwent gender-affirming procedures expressed regret afterward.

Ladinsky's efforts to protect that care were fruitful. A preliminary injunction stopped enforcement of the law in May, six days after it went into effect.

Some researchers are still facing COVID-19-related harassment 

Elisabeth Bik
The microbiologist Elisabeth Bik is a scientific-integrity consultant.

Some of the online harassment that health and science professionals face is still motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The microbiologist Elisabeth Bik has dealt with harassment, including from other academics, for her findings as a scientific-integrity consultant, where she largely performs "image forensics," or investigating for signs of doctored scientific images.

She even faced legal threats for her critiques of Dr. Didier Raoult's research on the potential of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment.

"I feel I can be the voice of a lot of people without power to raise these concerns because I don't really care if a person is the dean of a big university or the editor in chief of a journal," she told Insider.

Battling the stigma of monkeypox 

Federal attention is also turning to how to prevent new viral outbreaks with additional political undertones.

Demetre Daskalakis, a former head of the vaccine task force at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is now helping to diminish the spread of monkeypox as the White House deputy coordinator for national monkeypox response.

Social stigma from the monkeypox outbreaks has mildly echoed the intense social and political stigma of HIV, which Daskalakis has focused on for the majority of his career. Like HIV, the monkeypox outbreak has been weaponized against LGBTQ people — particularly gay men.

Demetre Daskalakis
Demetre Daskalakis is the White House deputy coordinator for national monkeypox response.
Daskalakis' strategy to mitigate the outbreak includes vaccinations, testing, treatment, and rapid communication, with special attention to reducing stigma and improving equity. He said he saw his approach as "common sense" but acknowledged it's not what many people had come to expect from federal healthcare institutions.

"Listening to what people are saying, what their needs are, acknowledging what you know and don't know, and then being ready to pivot as things change isn't sort of the normal playbook that you see for a lot of public-health response," he said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider








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