September 2019 Power Player
At Power to Decide, we’re committed to uplifting the many individuals on the ground doing the work that matters most. Each month we highlight an individual who is championing the effort to give young people the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child. Check out this month's Power Player profile.
Brendan Levy, MD
Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer, HeyDoctor
What work have you done to ensure that young people have access to high-quality sexual health information or high-quality contraceptive services so that they can decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child?
The most important thing is providing people with truly accessible high-quality health care and information — so they can make the best decisions for themselves regarding pregnancy and family planning. There are many great contraceptive options available today, and one of the most valuable things we can do as medical professionals is to help educate young people about their choices so they can pick the option that best meets their needs and is safe.
When we created HeyDoctor, one of our main goals was ensuring people had convenient access to a qualified health care provider to help them make the best decisions for themselves, and I think our birth control service is a flagship service in that regard. Patients can use our service and chat with a doctor or nurse. Then we can help them determine the best choice for them and also make sure the prescriptions are sent to the most convenient place for the patient, whether that is a local pharmacy or a mail order service.
How did you get started in your field? What is your driving force?
My overarching mission as a doctor has been to build a health care system that can actually deliver universal access to primary health care. I started out as a family medicine doctor in the traditional health system - but that same system got in the way of my ability to care for patients. I found that it was too expensive for my patients that needed it most, too difficult to access, and it wasn’t growing or changing to attempt to solve these society wide problems. Although American health care has great parts and many amazing people - as a system it is badly broken, and I want to be part of fixing it.
Every day at HeyDoctor I get to work on designing new ways of providing health care that can help people proactively, preventatively, and when they need it. Using the best of modern technology and combining it with traditional primary care — I believe we can go a long way to help make this vision of simpler more humanistic health care system a reality.
What advice would you give to someone looking to effect change in the field that you currently work in?
Health care in America is a wildly complicated industry with many stakeholders - make peace with the complexity initially and then figure out how to make some small part of it less complicated. Then leverage that success to expand the problems you are solving. The system is massive, and we cannot fix it overnight — but we will fix it.
And remember while working to change health care to always think about what the ideal patient experience would be for yourself or the people your care about. If you can maintain that clear vision as a guiding star, it is easier to figure out the next steps you should take.
Why should someone care about ensuring that all people—regardless of who they are or where they live—have access to the information and contraception they need to live their best life story?
Everyone should care because right now that access can vary widely depending on where you are living in the United States, your wealth, and other factors. And the decision to have a child is one of the most important choices imaginable, both for that woman and for our society -- and we should all strive to make sure, no matter who you are or where you live, you are empowered to make a decision that is right for your life.
Is there a highlight of your work in conjunction with our organization that you’d like to share?
We are proud sponsors of the Power to Decide and BCBenefits, which are helping to make it easier for women to access information and be prescribed contraception. I am deeply grateful for the work Power to Decide does to champion and advocate for access to healthcare and information.