Jesse Ehrenfeld joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University Medical School in 2010. A graduate of the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine and Harvard University School of Public Health, Ehrenfeld has prepared himself for a career not simply as a doctor but as a leader in public health and policy as well. Indeed, this overachieving young doctor is also an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve’s medical corps.
In each of these areas he has enjoyed great success. He is now Associate Professor at Vanderbilt, where he wears many hats, including acting as a consultant to the Associate Dean of Diversity on LGBTI issues and directing a course on “Sex, Sexuality, and Sexual Health.” In the Navy Reserve, he has attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and from 2011-12 served as Administrative Department Head of an Operational Health Support Unit out of Camp Lejune.
Ehrenfeld received an historic honor in June, however, becoming the first openly gay person elected to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Board of Trustees since the organization’s founding in 1847. The twenty-one member board, Ehrenfeld explains, “sets standards and policy for the medical profession. The AMA Board of Trustees ensures that the AMA remains focused on its essential reason for being: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. The Board is also responsible for providing oversight of the AMA and to ensure it is acting in the best interest of physicians.”
Dr. Ehrenfeld was kind enough to address the impact of his election as a symbolic moment, as well as his own goals as a leader in medicine and public health, in a brief Q&A:
JG: “What is the significance of having an openly gay trustee on the AMA Board of Trust?”
EHRENFELD: “My election as the first openly gay officer of the American Medical Association represents a growing desire to embrace diversity of all types by our membership and voting delegates. I expect that my service will signal to other gay physicians and trainees across the country, that the AMA is an organization that embraces the true diversity of our profession and is a place where all voices are welcome.”
JG: “More broadly, how will being a gay man and someone interested in LBGT medical issues influence how you will exercise your role?”
EHRENFELD: “As I step into my new role on the AMA Board of Trustees, I look forward to serving as a voice for LGBT physicians, patients and their families. The AMA has longstanding policy in support of LGBT patients and providing the best care for those in our community. I know that as an out physician, I will be able to bring an important perspective into the board room, as important conversations about training, access, and quality continue to evolve.”
JG: “What is it like being an LGBT naval medical care provider? Will being an AMA Trustee give you an opportunity to affect the experience of LGBT military medical needs/concerns?”
EHRENFELD: “I am proud to serve my country as a medical officer in one of the finest medical corps in the world, the U.S. Navy. With the repeal of DADT, it has been easier to ensure our LGBT servicemen and women receive the care they need. As Secretary Hagel commented last year, ‘Our nation has always benefited from the service of gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coast guardsmen, and Marines. Now they can serve openly, with full honor, integrity and respect. This makes our military and our nation stronger, much stronger. The Department of Defense is very proud of its contributions to our nation’s security. We’re very proud of everything the gay and lesbian community have contributed and continue to contribute. With their service, we are moving closer to fulfilling the country’s founding vision, that all of us are created equal.’ The AMA has long advocated on behalf of both our military physicians, as well as our patients served by the military.It will be a pleasure and an honor to ensure the perspective of those serving, including those serving as openly LGBT, is brought to the AMA Board.”
Ehrenfeld’s term on the Board is four years, and he will be eligible for re-election to a second term in 2018. Serving on the AMA Board of Trust is a distinguished position, but it is also a great responsibility: “the AMA is uniquely positioned to improve public health and improve the health of the nation.” The AMA’s combined resources, as well as its influential relationships, give the organization the capability of addressing key issues in order to improve the system of healthcare, and the overall physical wellbeing, of Americans.
In the coming years the AMA has three areas of strategic focus, including “Improving Health Outcomes, Accelerating Change in Medical Education and Enhancing Physician Sustainability and Satisfaction.” Each of these areas is of great concern to segments of our population. You can learn more at www. ama-assn.org/ama/pub/aboutama/strategic-focus.page