June 12, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Physician Leadership
Photo: Ari Moshayedi, Physician Magazine.
||Valencia Walker, M.D.
A career in medicine was not initially what Valencia Walker, M.D., pictured for herself. In high school, she dreamed of being an archaeologist, but eventually realized she "didn't want to be in dirt all the time." Under the guidance of her parents and a supportive high school science teacher, she realized she had a natural curiosity for science. "I fell in love with my biology classes and couldn't believe how easy it seemed for me," she said. Armed with a clearer vision of her talents and goals, she set her sights becoming a physician.
"My mom and dad didn't have college degrees, but they taught us to love learning and helping others. Becoming a physician seemed like the perfect way to do both," said Dr. Walker. "It is a challenging and rewarding profession that always demands our best."
Today, she provides round the clock critical care to babies as a neonatologist in Los Angeles. She works tirelessly for her "children" and as an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Her engagement in organized medicine began soon after completing her medical training and moving to California. She has been a member of the California Medical Association (CMA) and the Los Angeles County Medical Association since 2013.
This year, Dr. Walker had an unexpected opportunity to serve as Chair of CMA's Council on Legislation. She decided to "be fearless and jump into it" because it represented a chance to work closely with incredibly passionate advocates and strong leaders.
"The dedication and commitment displayed by so many who take time away from their practices to participate in shaping the future of health and medicine in California is humbling and inspiring," Dr. Walker said.
Dr. Walker's decision to get involved in organized medicine came from her dedication to her patients and was inspired by history. "Physicians have been doing this work for hundreds of years," she said. She points to Rudolf Virchow as a good example. He was a German physician, anthropologist, pathologist, biologist, writer, editor and politician — known for his advancement of public health, she said. "He firmly believed that physicians were politicians, and he was a very outspoken advocate for his patients."
As a physician, she says, she can advocate for social and political reform as part of her efforts to improve patient and public health. "The work that needs to be done (in promulgating state legislation for public health), must involve physicians," she said. "We can translate many of our critical thinking and problem-solving skills from medicine into the public policy arena. Also, we must help people see why and how we are so dedicated to doing the best that we can for our patients and our patients' families."
At the recent CMA Legislative Advocacy Day, Dr. Walker shared her personal experience of playing in her high school orchestra. She contrasted the cacophony of noises made by instruments all trying to be heard with the various individual physicians in California. She then reminded CMA members that CMA provides the opportunity for thousands of California physicians to unite their individual voices into a powerful symphony that can move people to effective change. "From cacophony to symphony, we are stronger, more effective and incredibly effective when we find unity within our diverse perspectives," said Dr. Walker.
Dr. Walker is also immediate past president of the Black Women Physicians Association and finds time to volunteer on medical missions to Guatemala, Tanzania and Haiti.
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