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Faculty Raise Awareness Through Op-Eds

Eve Feinberg, MD and Inger Burnett-Zeigler, '09 PhD

The medical school’s faculty members often serve as expert sources for news outlets covering healthcare topics. And sometimes, they write for these outlets themselves. Eve Feinberg, MD, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and Inger Burnett-Zeigler, ’09 PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, have published op-eds in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Time, The Hill and beyond. Here, they describe why they write.

Why do you think it’s important to share your thoughts and experiences through op-eds?

EF: Op-eds are a great medium to educate the public. As a specialist, we are taught to publish in scientific journals, which is great among your peers and colleagues. However, the general public does not read the scientific literature. The lay press gets a lot of information from a variety of sources and the science is often clouded by the politics. The lay press gets a lot of information from a variety of sources and the science is often clouded by the politics. I hope that as a clinician-scientist and an educator I can not only educate my students, but also the general public on very important issues in women’s health. Writing op-eds is a way to be heard and to present the facts in an unbiased medium, especially when published in reputable sources.

IBZ: As a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in an academic medical center setting, I conduct research studies with a multidisciplinary team of experts examining factors related to access and engagement in mental health services. Given the high rates of psychiatric disorders, low rates of mental health service utilization, particularly among racial/ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged communities and the uncertainty of the future of the ACA, this work is of high public health relevance.

Although I present this work in professional conferences nationwide and publish it in peer-reviewed publications, the research to practice pipeline is incredibly slow and it may take years before it ever reaches the public space. It is important to me that community members and policymakers have immediate access to the critically important information that is gained by conducting rigorous research. Additionally, I believe that it is important that clinical researchers have a voice in conversations about mental health issues that occur in everyday life as we have unique clinical and research expertise that brings perspective to the conversation. I also believe that as a South Side Chicago native, and an African-American woman in academia, I have a social responsibility to serve my community through my research, clinical care and my voice.

What messages do you want to get across to your readers? 

EF: I am passionate about the idea of reproductive choice. Reproductive choice is a spectrum that encompasses our ability to choose when to have a baby (or not), with whom and by what means. We need to make ethical and informed choices that are based in facts and not politics.  

IBZ: My overarching goal is to improve mental health outcomes in the community at large, and among socioeconomically disadvantaged racial/ethnic minority individuals in particular, by eliminating disparities in mental health service utilization. I want to raise awareness about the prevalence of mental illness and the gaping treatment gaps. I hope to reduce the stigma, negative attitudes and beliefs associated with mental illness and participation in treatment. It is important that people are aware of the negative effects of mental illness to overall health, well-being and productivity. I hope that increased awareness will lead to a prioritization of funding high-quality evidence based mental health services in underserved community based settings.

Feinberg and Burnett-Zeigler participated in Northwestern University’s Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellowship Program this year, a partnership with the OpEd Project, which aims to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas heard in academia and the world at large.