Profiles in Advocacy: Daniel Potts, MD

Part One of a Continuing Series

August 26, 2009

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In May, the AAN named Daniel C. Potts, MD, of Tuscaloosa, AL, the AAN Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum Advocate of the Year. Potts has been championing new approaches to care for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia that help them explore their untapped skills and enhance the quality of their lives.

The Advocate of the Year award recognizes the exemplary efforts of graduates of the AAN’s Donald M. Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum, a skills-development program designed to help neurologists become effective advocates for their patients and their profession.

The following is a short Q&A with Potts, to help you get to know an advocate for neurology.

What are your professional affiliations?
I am employed by the Alabama Neurology and Sleep Medicine, P.C., as well as the College of Community Health Sciences, University of Alabama School of Medicine.

Where did you attend medical school?
I attended the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, Mobile, AL.

Where did you perform your residency training and fellowship?
For my internship in Internal Medicine, Residency and Chief Residency in Neurology, I attended UAB Hospitals, Birmingham, AL.

What is your subspecialty or area of interest?
I focus on dementia and Alzheimer's, as well as general neurology.

For what are you advocating?
I want to improve the lives of dementia patients and their caregivers by establishing and supporting dementia daycare centers, which will utilize art and other therapies in a comprehensive program of cognitive stimulation.

How did you get involved in this issue?
My father's was involved in such a center, where he learned watercolor art, and reaped the benefits of such care. [Read an in-depth article about Potts' father, Pleading the Cause.]

How has the Academy helped you with your advocacy goals?
It has been a tremendous help, since my selection to participate in the Donald M. Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum offered me more media exposure, allowed me to create coalitions with other organizations, and aided me in drafting legislation.

What are some of the advocacy activities you have been involved with?
As part of my advocacy work, I've presented lectures across the country, participated in fundraising efforts, helped draft and support legislation, and acted as a liaison between the AAN and other organizations (such as the Alzheimer's Foundation and Association, media articles, and interviews, among others). I am also creating a foundation to support the use of the arts in caring for the cognitively-impaired.

What are some of your "victories" in advocacy?
I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Alzheimer's Foundation's National Conference in Chicago this year (my talk is entitled "A Neurologist Answers the Call: Art Appreciation and Caregiver Appreciation"). Also, I've helped support legislation that would create funding for dementia daycare through Medicare. And, of course, I can't forget being recognized as Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum Advocate of the Year 2008.

What obstacles have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Funding issues are always a concern, and lack of media exposure remains an obstacle; also, there seems to be an ignorance of the governmental and legislative processes, which makes the work more challenging. The AAN helped me overcome all of these through the Forum, Neurology on the Hill, and through personal guidance and assistance from mentoring staffers, Forum participants, as well as many others.

How can Academy members help with this issue?
Contact Congressional representatives to make them aware of the need for dementia daycare and respite for caregivers, ask them to support HR 3043 (the Medicare Dementia Daycare bill), refer their dementia patients to dementia daycare and other programs that incorporate the arts in care giving, among many other opportunities.

What advice would you give to somebody starting in advocacy?
Get involved through the Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum. This will give them the tools they need to make effective change!