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Meet Our Advocates: Dr. Sheila Attaie (she/her/hers)

Where do you call home?
Sacramento, California

What’s your specialty or area of expertise?
Family & Community Medicine

What first inspired you to become a doctor?
As the child of Iranian immigrants who fled a revolution in 1978, I was cognizant of my privilege growing up in a place where I could pursue my dreams and speak up to help others. Our primary care doctor helped us through some of the most beautiful and challenging moments in our lives. She even prescribed my first contraceptive pill! I wanted to help other families the way she helped us, and I have the privilege to do so. So as a science-loving extrovert interested in social justice, primary care and reproductive health was the clear path allowing me to blend my passions and help others build safe, happy, and healthy lives.

What advice do you have for medical students and residents wanting to incorporate advocacy into their day-to-day?
Advocacy has different avenues. It can be anything from helping a patient pay for their insulin to shaping federal policy. As a medical student, you are probably already advocating for patients in the hospital or clinic right now. Keep doing it! Please know that you are so important. You are the future. You own the power to invoke meaningful change. The past may have been about assimilation, but the future is about celebrating diversity! Speak up!

What current policy issue especially motivates you to be an advocate?
SB8 in Texas, every single TRAP law, criminalization of gender-affirming care, banning the use of mask mandates, banning critical race theory in schools, mass incarceration, incarceration of immigrants and children, voter suppression, the opt out option for the ACA mandate on contraceptive coverage, the Hyde Amendment, REMS for Mifepristone, refugee caps, family caps…there is a lot to be fired up about these days. I applied to the Leadership Training Academy because I want to learn to translate my frustration into effective advocacy.

How have the events of the past few years shaped how you view being a physician advocate?
The past few years have taught me to broaden my myopic view of reproductive rights beyond abortion. Policy related to voting, immigration, incarceration, health care access and many others are all interdependent, intertwined, and imperative to address to achieve reproductive freedom and justice. As a primary care provider and osteopathic physician, I was taught to view the body as a whole, not focusing on just one organ or one system. Advocacy is the same. There is not just one issue or one path to solving healthcare inequities in the US. Advocating for reproductive liberation, including access to abortion, will include advocating against all policies that are rooted in white supremacy and capitalism.

What is bringing you joy these days?
Spending time with my friends and family, preferably outdoors in new places with a yummy drink and good music! In the summer I enjoy hiking, kayaking, and paddle boarding and in the winter I will be snowboarding as much as the snow and my schedule allow!

Our Meet Our Advocates series showcases the talents and passion of one of our doctors and finds out, in their own words, what inspires them to be physician advocates. Sheila Attaie, DO is a current Fellow in our Leadership Training Academy Class of 2022. Dr. Attaie practices family medicine in Washington.

Read more interviews from the Meet Our Advocates series.