Skip navigation

Patient Leaders

Doug Burns

“If we focus on maintenance and actually let doctors and patients get to know each other, and the things that really matter to people, we can avoid so many expensive healthcare treatments down the line.”

Sometimes the quietest and humblest people have the most amazing stories – if you stop to ask the right questions. Doug Burns, a soft-spoken 68-year old, is quick to flash his wide grin and share he how grew up in and around Boston living with different families, traveled the world playing semi-professional tennis, learned basic greetings in over 40 languages and explored a wide range of interests and hobbies (be sure to ask him about his calligraphy!).

His commitment to staying healthy includes working out regularly – whether that’s hitting the gym, playing tennis or rowing out on the Charles River – and never missing his yearly check-up with his primary care doctor. So, when his clinic asked about and helped him resolve a housing issue that threatened both his physical and mental health, he became passionate about designing a healthcare system that works for all (because he needed another hobby!):

“Preventative medicine and how you treat people is so important. If we focus on maintenance and actually let doctors and patients get to know each other, and the things that really matter to people, we can avoid so many expensive healthcare treatments down the line.”

Doug is currently training for several 65+ men’s singles tennis tournaments and would be happy to share his advice on both an effective backhand AND his vision for the future of healthcare.

Just ask him.

Tiana Roberts

“Doctors need to have the time to develop real relationships with their patients. People need to know they can tell their doctors about their problems and be heard.”

City life can be really unpredictable – especially as a parent relying on public transportation. As a lifelong resident of Boston, Tiana is understands the challenge of getting around the city – and she wishes her healthcare provider would too.

A mother of four, her children are Tiana’s greatest source of joy. But getting her kids across the city to a doctor’s appointment can be stressful, even under the best circumstances. Add in lengthy delays and interruptions in service, and anyone would be frustrated. Especially when, despite calling ahead, the appointments are cancelled.

The memory of this experience stays with Tiana, helping inform her vision for a more patient-centered healthcare system. She envisions a system that is better adapted to the day-to-day realities of the communities they serve. For her, this starts with grounding healthcare in deeper relationships and more meaningful interactions.

“Doctors need to have the time to develop real relationships with their patients. People need to know they can tell their doctors about their problems and be heard. Doctors need to have more than 10-15 minutes.”

Tiana knows that this is possible, and hopes that by sharing her story she can help shape a new future for patient-centered care.

Lael Morris

“I’m not a statistic. According to statistics, I should not be employed, but that has not been my story. We need to know each other’s stories in order to be healthy.”

With an energy and friendliness that is truly contagious, Lael has been “advocating for the underdog” her whole life. From her success in raising a strong and smart son, to her dedication to her community, to her part-time work as a volunteer coordinator, it doesn’t take long – literally a matter of seconds – to see that Lael has a special way with people and that helping others is a major source of joy in her life.

Lael has been managing chronic back pain for years and feels strongly that the full picture of a person’s life – emotional, economic and social – is critical to health. She has also seen firsthand how strong relationships are key to empowering both patients and providers. During her most challenging and terrifying moments when she thought she might lose mobility – and her love of dancing – her honest, two-way partnership with her primary care doctor and her care team is what gave her the agency to make a strong recovery.

Today, as a self-proclaimed storyteller, she aims to use her voice as a powerful vehicle for change. In Lael’s ideal health system, doctors get to know their patients, and patients are not treated as statistics, but are seen for who they really are.

“Look at my record and get to know me. I’m not a statistic. According to statistics, I should not be employed, but that has not been my story. We need to know each other’s stories in order to be healthy.”

Tamy-Fee Meneide

Tamy-Fee hopes her son will someday live in a world where his doctors and local health system really understand the kind of care their community wants.

Talk to Tamy-Fee for two minutes, and you’ll see she is not only deeply committed to her work as a non-profit community strategist and coach, but she is a fierce and savvy advocate for patients’ rights. With wise, thoughtful eyes and a warm smile, she recounts how her passion for healthcare improvement stems from her role as a mother to a child with a medically complex history.

Born with a malrotation in his intestines and later suffering from enlarged adenoids, hearing loss and multiple hernias and severe allergies, Elijah endured nearly 12 surgeries before his third birthday. Through the course of his care, Tamy-Fee had to battle every step of the way: pushing for the necessary hospital stays so her son could heal and recover, correcting misconceptions and assumptions made about her health literacy and ability to make decisions about her son’s health, fighting for much-needed appointments and, at times, even for basic information about her son’s medical state. She powered through it all, but realized that navigating the healthcare system is too hard and often unjust – and it absolutely shouldn’t be.

Today, Elijah is happy and healthy – and clearly a fighter like his mom. Tamy-Fee hopes he will someday live in a world where his doctors and local health system really understand the kind of care their community wants. She wants to see a much-needed focus on equity, access and diversity as drivers of excellence. And, she hopes both patients AND doctors will invest in the relationship – where both sides listen, value each other opinions and work in a partnership for better health.

Zakiya Alake

“Patient-centered care is grounded in respect on both sides and a willingness to take risks - explore outside of conventions - to find the effective solutions.”

Zakiya has a love for connection, community and discovery.  A natural caregiver, her greatest joys in life are sharing a great meal with her loved ones – both family and friends – and singing and dancing. When she’s not busy working as a  recovery coach to help others on the path to health and wellbeing, she is advocating for a more equitable and just community.

Always striving to help those around her, Zakiya sometimes needs a reminder to take care of herself.  She used to find that reminder at her local community health center, where her primary care physician, a nurse practitioner, was a true partner in her health. After taking the time to understand how Zakiya viewed health, they worked together to find solutions — even when that meant exploring less traditional options.  When her PCP suddenly left the health center, Zakiya immediately felt the difference. At her next visit, her urgent issues and reason for her visit were brushed aside for the sake of paperwork, process and procedure. She felt sidelined and ignored and knows that is absolutely not how optimal and equitable care should feel.

Soft-spoken and sometimes reserved, Zakiya cares deeply and has strong, informed opinions about what healthcare should look like: she believes in a single-payer health system, the power of alternative medicine, health coaches, reducing the use of sugary foods in hospitals and clinics, and in creating more accessible language for discussing health that allows everyone to be an active participant in their health journey.

“Patient-centered care is grounded in respect on both sides and a willingness to take risks – explore outside of conventions – to find the effective solutions.”

Marla Mays

“If we create the time to stay human, doctors can make fewer assumptions and get to the right questions.”

Marla’s kids are at the center of her world. Just ask, and she’ll tell you – glowing with pride – how her son excels at math and science and how her young daughter is growing into a young woman. When she’s not chasing after them – and their cousins and friends – she’s striving to ensure she’s passing on the values that will empower them to reach their full potential.

In part, this means living the healthiest life possible. She’s lived within walking distance of Franklin Park her whole life. It’s there that she rejuvenates – finding the healing power of nature. And, with the perfect space nearby, she was inspired her to take up running. While enjoying the new connection to nature, her knee protested the new, repetitive activity. She knew immediately the source of the problem, but only long after a diagnosis of arthritis had been proposed did the new activity come up in conversation with her physician. She knows that they could have saved a lot of time – and stress – if the conversation had focused more on her life experiences than on direct questions about her pain.

“In urgent situations, doctors ask so many questions to get to the right problem and build out the right care teams. Patient-centered care takes into account physical concerns and the underlying mood and emotions of patients that may prevent them from sharing their true thoughts in every interaction and supports doctors navigating the increased emotional burden of this role. If we create the time to stay human, doctors can make fewer assumptions and get to the right questions.”

Marla has seen great care in action and knows it’s possible with a deeper understanding of microexpressions – and by taking the time to build relationships.

Domingo Cintron, Jr.

“Healthcare should be a human right and every human should be covered equally.”

Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present. Domingo is fully committed to celebrating every day as a gift. Now retired from his work at the Bedford Veterans Hospital, he is pursuing his duel passions of learning new things and helping others in any way he can. He loves photography and is currently taking classes to improve his photography and computer skills. He is deeply committed to his church — volunteering and singing in the choir. He believes that the more he shares with others, the more he helps himself.

He celebrates each day as a gift because he’s seen one too many times how fragile life can be. Domingo is a survivor of military service in the Vietnam era, a survivor of addiction (clean and sober since 1994), of his year-long battle with lymphoma (in remission since 2012!) and of a decade experiencing homelessness. His passion for healthcare improvement stems from navigating the health system through each stage of his life as a Hispanic, bilingual man. Through long hours in the clinic receiving cancer treatments, he has witnessed the struggle of his Spanish speaking peers. At times, he’s been asked to translate for Spanish-speaking patients, while watching others struggle to be understood and having long conversations about the lack of access to coverage and care.

Domingo believes that “healthcare should be a human right and every human should be covered equally.” He hopes to use his experience as a Latino navigating the U.S. health system to advocate for a system where all peoplehave equal access to care with dignity.

 

Kathie Roberts

"Medical care should focus more on treating the disease, but its whole-body impact, rather than ‘band-aiding’ individual symptoms.”

Kathie Roberts is mother of six, an active member of her church and lover of the outdoors – especially the ocean. She was raised to believe that life is both give and take and that you should help people however you can, whenever you can. She cares deeply for her family and community and works to give back whenever possible.

Kathie has also been battling Lyme disease, and subsequent co-infections, for over 18 years. Since her original diagnosis, Kathie has found that she frequently has had to fight to receive the medical care she needs to be healthy. In the process, she has had to become her own greatest advocate to ensure her medical needs are met and her voice heard. She believes that quality healthcare begins with mutual respect – when patients and providers all know their recommendations and opinions are valued.

Kathie believes “medical care should focus more on treating the disease, but its whole-body impact, than ‘band-aiding’ individual symptoms. Patients should feel comfortable disagreeing with their providers when they feel the focus is misdirected.” Advocating for yourself in the current healthcare system can be daunting – especially if, rather than understanding all the factors that shape your current health, it feels like your physician is focused solely on symptom management. Kathie hopes that by shifting the script to become more patient-centric, both patients and providers will become more invested in the important conversations and relationships that impact care.

Barbara Atkins

Barbara believes everyone deserves care that goes beyond simply “prescribing to treat the disease” and supports every person in living their healthiest life possible.

Barbara Atkins believes deeply in the power of community and finds her happiness in the presence of others. Drawing her inspiration from the Bible, she’s written over 60 poems and enjoys sharing her poetry with her church group. Barbara maintains a strong connection with her mother and loves spending time with friends and family – especially sailing on windjammers.

Barbara’s passion for equitable, person-centered healthcare stems from the countless hours she has spent and strong connections she has made with her neurologist and primary care doctor. Over the years, she has survived multiple surgeries to remove a lesion from her brain. While she’s had mostly positive experiences at her healthcare center and feels her providers understand the full picture of what she needs to both recover and maintain her health, she knows that is not always the case for everyone.

Following her initial brain surgeries in the 1990s, Barbara often finds herself working at a slower pace, needing extra time and concentration to process new information. She feels best about healthcare when given the opportunity to ask questions, talk through options and share what she needs as a person, not just a patient. She believes everyone deserves care that goes beyond simply “prescribing to treat the disease” and supports every person in living their healthiest life possible.