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Meet Our Advocates: Dr. Michelle Morse

Welcome to the new Meet Our Advocates series, where every week we’ll be showcasing the talents and passion of one of our doctors and hearing in their own words what inspires them to be physician-advocates. Kicking off the series is Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, an incoming member of the Leadership Training Academy Class of 2018.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Philadelphia—specifically, I’m west Philadelphia born and raised.

What’s your specialty or area of expertise?

I was trained in internal medicine but had the great fortune of being in both the primary care track as well as the global health equity track in my residency program. This was an amazing opportunity for many reasons, but specifically it gave me the time I needed to engage deeply in Haiti after the earthquake and to help start an organization focused on the next generation of Haitian health professionals.

What first inspired you to become a doctor?

Much of my family and my mom are public school teachers, and nobody was in the health field, so it was mostly my knack for science and math and my fascination with people that initially pulled me to medicine. Once I was in medical school, I finally figured out how to bridge my science/math nerd skills with my longstanding attraction to justice work of various forms.

What story about one of your patients most sticks with you?

Well, that’s an impossible question if I ever heard one. One that’s on my mind right now is a very young man from Haiti, who was the sole breadwinner for his family and nearly died of cavitary pulmonary tuberculosis. He was a 30-minute motorcycle ride from a new hospital, but didn’t go in large part because of his poverty and suspicion of Western medicine (which fueled his belief in traditional medicine). Western medicine had never really been accessible for his community, but our team met him during a mobile clinic and he decided to get on tuberculosis treatment. This story happens to have a happy ending, but these kinds of stories feel like the exception instead of the rule, especially in our current political moment.

What current policy issue especially motivates you to be an advocate?

Social apartheid.

Who is your social justice hero?

Also impossible to pick one, but this year I have been diving into Assata Shakur, Ella Baker, Marshall Ganz, and Paul Farmer, as always. Right now, I am re-reading Blood on the Border by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz while I’m visiting Nicaragua, and it is reminding me about just how bloody our country’s history of settler colonization is, how directionless our social justice movements could be if they don’t lead with historical analysis, and how broad swaths of American citizens are both ignorant of this essential American history and unwilling to acknowledge and work against their ignorance as a fundamental contribution to our current struggle.