UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health colleagues gathered at the Memorial Union on September 7 for an address from Eugene and Linda Farley Visiting Professor Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, FAAFP, and to recognize the 2023 Frey Writing Award recipients.
From left: Drs. John Frey, Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, and Jennifer Edgoose at the Farley-Frey celebration.
Martinez-Bianchi’s talk, Health Equity Advocacy, Adopting Health Equity as a Personal Value, focused on her path to health equity and policy work. Recounting her journey from young girl watching her father, a vascular surgeon, care for people in Argentina to physician/activist carrying on his dream, she inspired the room with her thought-provoking words.
A Foundation of Community Service
Martinez-Bianchi’s earliest memories were of her father helping the community, always carrying his doctor’s bag with him to help anyone in need.
“It was always in the trunk of the car,” she remembered.
In 1978, her father excitedly displayed a newspaper headline highlighting the Alma-Ata Declaration, a consensus statement from all member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) naming health as a human right based on the principles of equity and community. It declared primary health care as its official health policy and for the first time broadened the perception of health to include social determinates and social justice. Only 14 years old when she saw her father’s excitement on that day, Martinez-Bianchi realized she wanted to be involved in patient care and world health. A specialty her father said was not created yet while encouraging her to forge her own path. Though he died young, his dream was the foundation for her career in family care, health equity and policy work.
“For me, family medicine has been that dream as I work for social justice,” she added. “I continue dreaming today that we can make a better world.”
A Long Road
Though the Alma-Ata Declaration was revisited by WHO in 2019 with the acknowledgement that they had not achieved their vision, Bianchi-Martinez remains optimistic in the face of many challenges. According to her, while skeptical of a new agreement with so much work to do, health care for all can be achieved if more people join her on this path.
“I am passionate about health equity and the role that we all have in making a difference,” said Martinez-Bianchi.
To conclude, she shared a story about her residency program interview 30 years ago that found her in a fancy Chicago restaurant feeling vulnerable about fitting in with a culture so different from her native Argentina. And then she heard “the music of the voices in the kitchen” speaking Spanish.
“I realized then that Latinos in the US and people from many other countries are vital to the US economy yet they’re invisible, they’re unheard,” said Martinez-Bianchi. “If every person has a voice, who is listening to that story they want to tell? Who is able to listen and understand the language?”
She urged the audience to explore their own stories and know their own histories because together we stand tall.
“It is through walking this path as a family doctor, an educator, an activist, a community engaged and global leader that I have made the biggest difference and I’m talking for you here resilient and determined in this path to health equity,” she concluded. “I invite you to join me on this path and continue to do the work.”
About Dr. Martinez-Bianchi
Eugene and Linda Farley Visiting Professor, Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, discusses health equity at the DFMCH Farley-Frey celebration.
Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi is a family doctor, fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, associate professor, and the director for health equity at Duke University’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. She is executive member-at-large of the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) and WONCA liaison to the World Health Organization, and chair of the Organizational Equity committee. She is founder and co-director of LATIN-19, the Latinx Advocacy Team and Interdisciplinary Network for COVID-19, a multisector group addressing Hispanic health during the COVID-19 Pandemic and beyond. She currently serves as a Latinx Health advisor for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS). She is a member of the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force, and she serves in the NC DHHS Historically Marginalized Populations COVID-19 Response Team, in the Steering Committee of the NC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, convened by the NC Institute of Medicine, NC Medical Society’s Health and Racial Equity Task Force and in the Vulnerable Populations Subcommittee of the Durham’s Recovery & Renewal Task Force.
Frey Writing Awards
The ceremony also recognized this year’s John Frey Writing Award recipients. The Frey Writing Awards were established in 2010 to honor John Frey, III, MD, past chair of the DFMCH, and to recognize and encourage individual creative writing.
Dr. John Frey (back row, far right) with the Frey Writing Award recipients.
- Loved (James Bigham, MD, MPH)
- Traveling by Night (Elizabeth Fleming, MD)
- Newborn Rounds (Magnolia Larson, DO)
- Up the Stream (Nyla Mathis)
- Weathering the Storm: Reflections on Identity and Progress in Academia (Kya Vaughn)
Read all the submissions: 2023 John J. Frey, III, MD, Writing Award Submissions
2023 Farley-Frey Event Photos
Published: October 2023