A Visit with Lauren Foe

03 Aug, 2020


A Visit with Lauren Foe

July/August 2020

Senior Associate, Regulatory Affairs
American College of Surgeons (ACS)

Talk about how the pandemic has affected your work.

 People don’t ordinarily associate surgeons and COVID-19, right? Surgeons don’t treat viruses. They’re not “on the front lines.” But our members have faced a lot of challenges during this time, and it has been hard for people like me who have to keep our members informed about policy changes. For a while there, policies were changing daily, and the conditions under which our members worked or didn’t work have been changing. Some of our members have seen operating rooms, where they work, taken over for extra patient rooms. Because many of the procedures our members perform are technically “elective,” there’s a great deal of work they can’t do right now. Some of them have been furloughed by their hospitals. Some of them in private practice have had to close their practices.

What, exactly, does “elective” mean?

That’s a good question. You might think elective surgery means a tummy tuck or a face-lift. But that’s not right at all. A hip replacement is an example of elective surgery. So one thing we’ve been working for at ACS is a more accurate word than “elective” to refer to the kind of medically necessary surgery so many of our members do.

What have you, personally, learned about public policy during this period?

I’d never worked during a pandemic before. I was in graduate school during the Ebola scare, so this is new to me. But one thing I have observed is both how quickly the nation mobilized in response to the pandemic — this was impressive — but also how disorganized that response was. You had the administration saying one thing, and the federal agencies saying something else, and then policies made at the federal level crashing down to the states, which also set policy in these areas. No one seems to have thought through how the federal government and the states were to work together, or not, in setting policy. And that’s understandable, because no one had the time to sit back and think it through. But all in all, I think HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] has done a good job.

You’ve built quite a list of publications in medical journals, under your byline and that of a surgeon or other medical specialist. How rare is this?

It does seem rare, and I think more public affairs professionals should do this. I took the initiative and my efforts were recognized, and writing and publishing those kinds of articles is a great way to present a position for your organization — things like best practices, for example. I’ve had to develop relationships with different ACS members, and they have a lot of important things to say. We’ve even developed books that become important resources for our members. There’s been a trend toward more and more surgeons working for hospitals instead of in private practice, for example, and we’ve developed resources to help them figure that transition out.

You’re active in Women in Healthcare. Tell us about that.

I’ve served on the board of Women in Healthcare (WIH)’s DC chapter  for the past three years. WIH provides more opportunities for women to succeed and promotes diversity in healthcare. Our membership represents women with a wide range of experience in the industry, and our board alone consists of hospital and health system executives, physicians, health policy and strategy experts, project managers and business owners, engineers and interior designers, among others. We serve as a platform for women leaders to empower others to work to make a lasting impact in the changing face of healthcare. Public affairs professionals who work in the healthcare space should check out the WIH DC Chapter events webpage, along with WIH’s national website to learn more about our networking, education, and professional development opportunities in our 10 additional chapters throughout the country.

You’re a big fan of something called Regs & Eggs. What is that? A breakfast group where lobbyists meet to talk about their work?

No, it’s a blog done by Jeffrey Davis, a colleague of mine who works for the American College of Emergency Physicians. Healthcare regulation isn’t sexy, you know? You have to get down in the weeds to make sense of it, and it is hard to write about in ways that will be understood by laymen. This is an attempt, my friend says, to talk about regulation in ways people can read over their breakfast, you know? I recommend it!

At Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, you’ve been involved in “simulated standardized patient encounters.” I assume that is like being a practice patient who can describe fake symptoms of real diseases. Didn’t Kramer do that on “Seinfeld”?

That’s exactly what it is. I wasn’t a patient, but I helped organize these sessions and could watch and listen to them from another room. And it could be hilarious. One group of med students were talking to these practice patients, as you call them, who suffered from allergies. They began to ask about whether the patients lived in rural areas, and one of the students, in all seriousness, asked if the patient had had any encounters with bears. I was thinking, “This isn’t a trauma center. There’s no bleeding. There are no claw marks. Where did this come from?” And later the students said that before the session, they were asking about pets and animals and allergies, so one of them thought maybe the patient had gotten it from a bear.

Reach Foe at 202.909.6556 or lfoe@facs.org.

Want More Information on This Topic?

Contact Kelly Memphis, manager of government relations and stakeholder engagement practice

Additional Resources

Research – Survey of Senior Public Affairs Executives on COVID-19 Impacts

Upcoming Virtual Event – Digital Media & Advocacy Summit

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