Dr. Lecuyer: Balances The Weight of Policy Advocacy with Levity
COVID-19 data collected from April 5, 2020, through December 3, 2021, for Washington, D.C. by Mayor Muriel Bowser, offers a sobering look at structural inequities in healthcare: over 2.7M Black and African Americans have tested positive for COVID whereas only 56K white people have. Source: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/data
However, policy change advocates in the medical community like Dr. Lecuyer aren’t surprised by these statistics. He began his pursuit for a career in medicine to help make the world a better place, and to him that means a place where structural inequities are reconciled.
His arrival in Washington, D.C. in 2019 took a circuitous route. He was raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, best known for the city where Moby Dick begins, and attended Georgetown University for his undergraduate degree. There the Jesuit ideals resonated with him. “During my undergraduate I was encouraged to pursue medicine and care for the whole person,” he recalled.
Dr. Lecuyer returned to Massachusetts for medical school and attended the University of Massachusetts where he leaned in to conversations on affecting change and became involved with policy, which took him to Chicago, where the American Medical Association is headquartered. He was there for three years and during this time, met his husband.
The couple then travelled to Rhode Island where Dr. Lecuyer did his fellowship training at Brown University and ultimately came to Washington, D.C. because of his ability to impact legislative policy on Capitol Hill.
Dr. Lecuyer understands that patients need to relate to their physicians. To accomplish this, physicians should represent as broad a spectrum of the population as possible. Something that college admissions and tuition fees do not support. “A student from a lower socio-economic community in Chicago has a lesser chance of being admitted to medical school than their counterpart from a wealthier community,” said Dr. Lecuyer. “To create a diverse workforce in medicine, something needs to be done about this. We need whitecoat advocacy for workforce diversity,” he adds.
Through his membership with MSDC he continues his work to implement policy changes. “We have recently completed a white paper for colleagues on the topic of unconscious biases in the lifecycle of a physician. The goal is to become more educated on unconscious biases.”
The data from COVID spotlights the need for his effort. “The Wards in D.C. that have seen the highest number of positive COVID cases are those that are predominantly African American and have a corrosive disadvantage, which is to say that one disadvantage leads to another. Lower income leads to toxic stress exposures, poor health outcomes and an inability to pay for medicine, and so on,” he explained. “By addressing corrosive disadvantages through policies, we can have an impact on health and wellbeing,” he continued.
Witnessing structural inequalities can also lead to moral injury among physicians who cannot continue to bear witness to inequalities demanding reconciliation and that lead to health disadvantages.
When he is not in meetings working to make his community a better place, Dr. Lecuyer is on an 8–9-hour shift working in pediatric emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital, where he feels valued and appreciated by his patients’ parents. “The parents in my hospital are generally grateful that they are there. Physicians in my specialty are made to feel valued by our patient’s families.”
During his shift work he has seen the impact the pandemic has had on children. “My patients do well medically with COVID; however, I have witnessed a mental health decline in my patients over the past almost two years, especially among my adolescent patients for whom change is harder,” he said.
As a pediatric specialist, Dr. Lecuyer may see his patients until they are in their mid-20s. This affords him the opportunity to monitor mental health as the pediatric community moves through and away from the pandemic. By nature, he will be first to implement change for better mental health screenings for adolescents if he feels the need for it for both improved patient wellness.
His heavy workload requires levity during his time off and to Dr. Lecuyer and his husband, there is no better place to unwind than Disneyworld. While they enjoy travelling, everywhere they have been falls second to the Happiest Place on Earth.
With travel restrictions making travel a challenge, Dr. Lecuyer and his husband have visited Virginia Wine Country, just a short drive from the D.C. Metro area and were pleasantly surprised.
Fitness is also high on Dr. Lecuyer’s list of personal time activities. He is an avid runner and will be completing his fifth marathon at Disney’s Dopey Challenge: a 4-day event that includes a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, all followed by a full marathon. According to Dr. Lecuyer, Disney has great medals and with this being its 50th year anniversary, he is hoping for an even better one.
Most of us will just have to take his word for it.