Besides caring for patients at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in New York, Alanna Levine, MD, FAAP has talked about pediatric health care to a number of media outlets from NBC's TODAY show and The Doctors to newspapers, magazines and websites like BabyCenter.com.
"I care a lot about how pediatricians communicate with families and how families attain health information," said Dr. Levine. "I want to make sure parents get their information from a reliable source." She has covered issues like car seat safety, vaccines, food allergies and how tragedy can affect children.
After a colleague first convinced her to try out a news segment in 2007, Dr. Levine discovered she had a knack for breaking down complex medical issues into information that could be used by the public. She also found herself checking out the AAP website for information. "As I was doing that, I realized it would really help me if I could join forces with the AAP," Dr. Levine said. She became a spokesperson for the organization in 2009 and joined the Council on Communications and Media.
"My involvement made me a better pediatrician in my office, because I was aware of policy changes in real time," Dr. Levine said. She also has had access to medical experts and researchers on news topics through the AAP's Division of Media Relations. "What I found is that other AAP members are so willing to stop whatever they are doing to help you," she said. "I feel very proud of both the media work I've done and the relationships I've built. I am now better able to control the messages during a health segment, and talk about topics that area really important to me." Following the tragedy in Newtown, CT, she was able to share what she learned from experts on The Dr. Oz Show. In turn, Dr. Levine also is up-to-date on the latest policies and best practices when families visit her pediatric office and ask about issues that have made the news like concussions or sleep in adolescents.
Besides working with experts, Dr. Levine collaborates with several pediatricians who work with the media and are connected to the AAP, like Jennifer Shu in Georgia, Tanya Remer Altmann in California, Laura Jana in Nebraska, Wendy Sue Swanson in Washington, and Ari Brown in Texas. The impressive group of award-winning authors, entertainment consultants, and media experts acts as a team by sharing talking points and advising each other.
It was only natural, then, that Dr. Levine turned to the AAP as she recently took over the management of her practice and oversaw the building of 5,000 square feet of new office space. She became a member of the Section on Administration and Practice Management (SOAPM), paying close attention to the group's listserv where ideas are shared. As a result, Levine's practice is full of the good ideas of her peers. She received helpful advice about medical billing and coding that has increased the bottom line of her practice. She added a remote monitoring system for its vaccine refrigerators, created a Facebook page, is doing patient recalls for overdue check-ups, and is adding a dietician to its staff.
Dr. Levine also set up exam rooms so doctors and nurses can make eye contact with patients while entering information into a computer. "The computer can be a barrier because you look at the screen and not the patient," Dr. Levine explained.
She also has used her media skills in her practice through Facebook and an office website. Besides office hours, the sites offer links to credible websites offering information on childhood illnesses, vaccines and other health care issues. "We all know parents are going online for health information at 2 a.m.," Dr. Levine said. "I know I'm sending a parent to a reliable place rather than a Google search." She also is planning a video series on health issues that are important, but might not fit into a checkup or sick visit. Families could watch them before they come in for an appointment or as needs arise.
Dr. Levine encourages others to get involved with the AAP in whatever area piques their interest and then to attend AAP conferences to network with other pediatricians. "Align your interest with theirs and make those people who share your interests, your colleagues," she said. Then, continue to be involved. "For me, it started with media, but now I spend more time with office management," Dr. Levine said. "As your career evolves, you involvement with the Academy can evolve as well. Through my involvement, I've become a better pediatrician and a better business person. I think my patients see it too."