November 2022

Dr. Stephanie Kwon holding an "I voted" sticker

A Passion for Advocacy

by Jennifer Ware

This summer, if you attended one of the MUSC Pediatrics 2022 Summer Advocacy Series lectures, you might have had the opportunity to learn more about the impact of climate change on child health, or about the best way to advocate for LGBTQ+ parents at every level in healthcare. But even though the sessions’ topics changed, one constant you could be assured of each week was the vibrant presence of Pediatrics’ Advocacy Director Dr. Stephanie Kwon. And it’s her passion for advocacy that is one of the cornerstones of the program’s resounding success.

Looking back over her past two years of involvement, Dr. Kwon recognizes the impact MUSC has had on her career and is especially grateful that the Department of Pediatrics’ passion for Advocacy matches her own. “Coming here, I could not have imagined the journey of where I am now,” she says.

Dr. Kwon first became interested in advocacy during her residency at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. “I was involved in their resident organization for advocacy and had a couple of advocacy projects, and so I knew early on that was something I wanted to incorporate into my career,” she says. “As soon as I knew I was coming to MUSC – even before I started – I reached out to Dr. Annie Andrews (former director of the Hospitalist Fellowship program and Residency Advocacy Program) in July of 2020 to ask her how I could get involved.”

At first it was just attending the series’ lectures. “I listened to all of them, and that was my first experience. Then after that, (Dr. Andrews) provided me with an opportunity to become involved with the program and I became the Associate Director of Advocacy.”

In her new her role, Dr. Kwon was able to help shape the 2021 lecture series in terms of what topics would be covered, as well as presenting a few of the lectures herself in collaboration with other faculty members. “That year the series featured a representative from the Lowcountry Food Bank who touched on food insecurity, and an in-depth discussion about the racism in the healthcare industry facing providers and patients.”

After the season ended, Dr. Andrews decided to step down as Advocacy director, and Dr. Kwon assumed the role. One of her first major tasks was to utilize the coveted July and August Friday 8 a.m. time slot.

“Grand Rounds is the regular scheduled programming that happens Fridays during the majority of the academic year,” she says. “The time between July and August was kind of a break – there were actually no grand rounds – so we capitalized on that opportunity to fill in that gap and be able to use that time as part of our curriculum for the pediatric residents and then also have that reach to the faculty as well to highlight important advocacy topics.”

The Friday morning sessions are also an opportunity to expand on relevant topics stemming from current world event and legislations. “Earlier this year there were multiple legislations involving our LGBTQ+ patients and so the residents made the decision to organize the (aforementioned) lecture based on these pressing matters and some even acted as the panelists during the lecture. They wanted to bring the conversation back to supporting our LGBTQ+ families and patients.”

It's that collaboration that Dr. Kwon credits much of the program’s success to. “I am very much a believer in that – it’s all collaborative,” she says. “I’ve had a strong core group of residents that are interested in advocacy, as well as faculty, and as a group we’ve been able to organize this lecture series. Part of my role has been to coordinate and make sure that we filled all of the Friday slots with speakers and chose appropriate topics as well.”

Planning for the series starts in February and first on the agenda is what worked from last year and where do they want to go this year? “I would say that one standing topic (from year to year) is the legislative advocacy – where we have legislators touch on relative issues,” she says. “We also feature an LGBTQ+ lecture each year, and the last lecture of the series is usually a diversity centered one.”

Another change for 2022: Resident Choice lectures. “This was a really great addition this year - two of the lectures are Resident chosen, organized, and led,” Dr. Kwon says. “This kind of leadership is great for providing empowering opportunities for the residents to be able to speak about the work they’re really passionate about.”

As her role as Director of Advocacy evolves, as well as national and world events continue to unfold, Dr. Kwon is always mindful of the direction the series takes.

“At the conclusion of the series, we send out a survey to kind of give us some feedback about how the lecture series went this year and ask for topic suggestions for the upcoming year,” she says. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback, and it’s been really nice to see not only physicians, but support staff coming up with ideas for next year’s topics. One of the topics that was touched on but with the constraints of time we really want to revisit is housing stability for patients. What happens if a landlord is evicting a patient and their family during treatment? What happens then? What resources can we provide them to help mitigate that?”

And Dr. Kwon feels the series is enhanced by the level of support and importance that MUSC and the Department of Pediatrics gives advocacy as a whole. “I think it’s amazing that the department recognizes that this is something that pediatric trainees are interested in – that advocacy is valuable to them and could be the reason they choose MUSC as their residency program because of how strong it is.”

She adds, “MUSC and the Department of Peds provides the education that they need to be lifelong child health advocates. I think there is such an important part of giving back to your community, and I’m so excited to see where the Advocacy Program grows to.”