by Sonya Kullmann
On an ordinary day, you’ll find Dr. David Barbe seeing patients at his Mercy Clinic office in the small town of Mountain Grove, Missouri.
And in some ways, that’s how today will go, too, after an early morning videoconference. His patients probably won’t even be aware he’s just been installed as the president of the World Medical Association.
As the COVID-19 pandemic brings into sharp focus the worldwide importance of health care, Dr. Barbe will lead the organization that represents more than 9 million physicians.
The association has an official relationship with the World Health Organization, and its members include 114 national medical associations. For the past three years, Dr. Barbe has been one of the three delegates from the American Medical Association to the World Medical Association. Dr. Barbe is also a past president of the AMA.
In his speech today, he spotlighted the pandemic as one of the biggest challenges he and his colleagues face. “We must continue to advocate for adequate personal protective equipment, appropriate facilities and medical equipment, and adequate support staff,” he said. “We must work with public health officials to pursue policies that reduce the frequency and severity of disease while at the same time allowing for an orderly and safe conduct of business and education. We must continue to let the science lead us and be vocal advocates for evidence-based treatment and safe and effective vaccines.”
With that, the small-town doctor, who returned to his hometown to practice medicine, brought his common-sense message to the world stage.
“I think what we’ve learned from Dr. Barbe during his many leadership roles, both within Mercy and beyond, is that all of us in health care are facing similar challenges,” said Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Mercy. “He’s been a strong advocate for things like high-quality medical care for everyone, which is a global concern. I know he’ll continue to do what he can to improve access, and patients around the world will be better for his leadership.”
In fact, Dr. Barbe addressed health care access in today’s address. “Those already experiencing health inequity are often those with chronic diseases who are also at increased risk for COVID-19,” he said. As the virus spreads, he urged his colleagues to advocate for health care for all people in the world.