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  • Copeland Fund Recipient a Longtime Advocacy Proponent

    Copeland Fund recipient Aaron Dotson, MD

    From speaking on racial disparities in medicine on the “Today” show to being recognized as the 2024 Robert J. Copeland Jr. Education Advocacy Fund recipient, Aaron Dotson, MD, has worked to advocate for patients for as long as he can remember.

    The annual award allows a resident or fellowship trainee to attend Mid-Year Forum, including Congressional Advocacy Day, as part of the Advocacy Ambassador program. Dr. Dotson discusses why he’s going to Mid-Year Forum 2024 and what he will do with the information and contacts it offers.


    What are you looking forward to most at Mid-Year Forum 2024?

    This will be my first time attending Mid-Year Forum, and I'm very excited! In addition to seeing familiar faces, I'm excited for the opportunity to advocate on behalf of patient care and ophthalmology as a whole!

    What will you do with the information when you get back to Iowa?

    I plan to share the many takeaways with our ophthalmology department, patients, and Iowa Academy of Ophthalmology. While vital to promote advocacy on a national level, it's equally, if not more important to advocate for the longevity of ophthalmology and combat various health disparities from a state or local level.

    Can you talk about your work with Black Men in White Coats?

    As a medical student, Aaron Dotson, MD (right), was interviewed in 2019 on the “Today” show about Black Men in White Coats along with organization founder Dale Okorodudu, MD.

    I've always had a passion for advocacy after witnessing firsthand the multitude of health, financial, and social disparities and injustices within our society. One organization that particularly embodies my efforts of advocacy is Black Men in White Coats (BMWC). BMWC was founded in the early 2010s in an effort to increase the number of black men entering the field of medicine. 

    Since joining the organization, I have had the opportunity to mentor dozens of college and medical students. I also had the opportunity to share with the nation about BMWC and advocate for better diversification of medicine as a whole while on NBC’s “Today” show. BMWC is actively changing lives and will continue to help heal our communities in need.

    Being on the Today show was an amazing experience! I grew up watching [NBC weathercaster] Al Roker on TV, and he's one of the nicest people imaginable! Having the platform to share with the country about the organization was such an honorable experience. We were able to bring awareness about the need for more black men to become physicians. We also used the air time to help promote the Black Men in White Coats documentary, which is a powerful and inspiring film about the mission of BMWC. 

    Are there simple ways you think other YOs can be Advocacy Ambassadors even if they don’t attend Mid-Year Forum?

    It's important to be knowledgeable about health disparities, potential legislative changes, and patient needs within the local community. One can be an advocate by simply speaking up on behalf of patient safety/needs to their local government officials. Having an active voice and presence can help preserve the longevity of ophthalmology and the safety of our patients.

    About the author: Aaron Dotson, MD, is the recipient of the 2024 Robert J. Copeland Jr. Education Advocacy Fund Award.