Editor’s note: Voting for AAP president-elect will take place from Aug. 17 through Aug. 31. The winner will serve as AAP president in 2024.
Given the current divisiveness in our culture, how can you, as AAP president, help to bring people together?
Warren M. Seigel, M.D., M.B.A., FSAHM, FAAP
Kew Gardens, N.Y.
Our country is divided over issues impacting the health of our society. Polarization is rampant in politics and public opinion regarding issues surrounding race, sexual orientation/identity and the economy. There is a growing divide in the opinions of the public and those elected to represent us.
The AAP must represent a diverse membership. We do so with a united front. While this is a huge challenge, we can represent the diversity of our constituent opinions by maintaining a focus on shared core values and purpose. As president, I would put those values and that purpose at the forefront, advocating for changes that advance our mission. One difference between society and our organization is that we share a dedication to the people we care for and serve. What is best for infants, children, adolescents and young adults, their families and our pediatrician members remains the shared North Star guiding our work. This “best” is our destination, and we can value the diverse opinions on how to best get there.
I would solicit and welcome suggestions from every member about negotiating obstacles in the journey. Disagreements on the route can be a real strength in developing strategies to successfully advocate in a divisive environment for those we care for and the pediatricians we represent. I am proud of the commonality of the work we do within the AAP. We can show our united front and be role models to a fractious culture, addressing concerns that are divisive while affirming the goals that unite us.
Benjamin D. Hoffman, M.D., FAAP
Americans have rarely been as polarized as they are today. The convergence of social media and partisan traditional media have widened existing cultural divides, often exacerbated by misinformation and disregard for facts and science.
In my decades of work in community engagement and legislative policy advocacy, I have learned that much of our power and credibility as pediatricians starts with our reliance on science and the best available evidence. We are viewed as the experts in kids and their health, and we must carefully maintain that trust.
Good leadership is built on values. Starting with science and purposeful focus on what is best for kids, we can find the common ground that is difficult to oppose.
With this approach, I successfully engaged broad swathes of our community to discuss one of the most contentious and divisive issues facing our country — firearms. I have never met anyone who disagreed with the statement “No child or adolescent should ever be injured or killed by a gun.” And it was from this starting point I worked to bring together different groups — including gun owners — to negotiate mutually agreed upon legislation, which led to passage of safe firearm storage legislation in my state of Oregon in 2020.
As AAP president, I will be equally well-prepared to listen as I am to talk. I will be prepared to compromise on small things on the road to creating bigger change, to build consensus, remaining resolute in my reliance on science and data, and my commitment to do “What’s Best for Kids.”