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Milwaukee doctor will be 1st openly gay American Medical Association president

By Sarah McGrew,


Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, an anesthesiologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, has been named the next President of the American Medical Association . His term starts on Tuesday, June 13.

Ehrenfeld also leads the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment.

Ehrenfeld's position as AMA president is historic because he will be the first openly gay person in the role.

"Being the first gay AMA president is a momentous step for the organization. Visibility and representation are so important," Ehrenfeld said. "50 years ago, I couldn't be an AMA member let alone a leader."

As president, his primary role will be to represent doctors across the country. He said that starts with how to rebound from the toll of the pandemic.

"My priorities with the AMA are to help America's doctors recover from what we've been through the last three years. People are burned out, exhausted, looking to reduce their hours and leave the practice. We've got to turn that around," he explained. Ehrenfeld

Standing up for doctors also means making sure they're able to take care of their patients in the way they were trained to.

"We're in a time when we've got a lot of backseat drivers in medicine. We've got insurance companies telling us what we can and can't do. We've got a lot of legislatures and the federal government stepping in saying what you can and can't do. It's becoming increasing challenging for physicians to go to medical school to what we want to do, which is to take care of our patients," Ehrenfeld said.

In particular, he addressed challenges to reproductive health and gender-affirming care.

"We will always stand up for the autonomy of a patient and a physician to make a decision together that's in their best interest," he said. "We cannot allow government intrusion in the practice of medicine. Whether that's the reproductive space or around care or transgender people. We will oppose that no matter where it's happening or how it's happening."

The Human Rights Campaign tracks gender-affirming care bans impacting youth across the country. The most recent map shows 20 states have a law or policy banning gender-affirming care up to age 18. Seven states, including Wisconsin, have a law or policy being considered. TMJ4

"We have the avenues of advocacy at the state level and in Washington. We also have the courts and we are very active in litigation, filing suits primarily on behalf of physicians but also joining amicus briefs with other like-minded organizations," Ehrenfeld said about how the AMA can advocate for doctors and patients alike.

The AMA has previously put out a statement in opposition to gender-affirming care bans.

Ehrenfeld believes the AMA and America's Physicians have an important role to play in bringing a divided county back together for the health of the nation.

TMJ4 asked him what he hopes he's remembered for after his term is over.

"I hope that it's I helped lift up the health of the nation. I don't know exactly in this coming year what political challenges we'll face, but whatever they are I have the confidence of the AMA and our leadership to help improve the situation for all Americans.

More About Dr. Ehrenfeld

Ehrenfeld went to medical school in Chicago, trained in Boston and worked at Vanderbilt for nine years before moving to the Milwaukee area and joining the Medical College of Wisconsin.

He also spent a decade in the military.

"I spent 10 years in the Navy as a reserve officer practicing anesthesiology and was overseas in a number of places including Afghanistan in 2014-15 serving our service members," Ehrenfeld shared. "It's humbling to think that there's at least three guys that would not have made it back if I hadn't been there on the front lines." Jesse Ehrenfeld

On top of the medical work he did in the Navy, Ehrenfeld also helped share the lives of LGBTQ service members.

"LGBT health equity has been a driver of a lot of my activity in medicine and policy for a number of years. While I was deployed I was able to work to help share the lives of transgender service people while in service," Ehrenfeld said.

Ehrenfeld is also busy at home. He and his husband have two sons together. The oldest is 4 years old, their new baby is 4 months old. Ehrenfeld

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