• First things first.

    Russyan Mark Mabeza is from America – California, at the moment. His heritage is Filipino and his name is pronounced like a person from Russia. He’s a published poet and an award-winning playwright. He recently finished his third year of medical school at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is taking the next year “off” to earn a master’s degree in public health.

    Now, here’s what you really need to know: Russyan Mark Mabeza, a former scholar with the AAFP Foundation’s Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leadership Institute (ELI), is on track to change the world. Your world. He’s a force, tackling racism, under-representation, and injustice throughout the medical profession.

    “Racism has deep entanglements with our profession, and that legacy of racism manifests itself in today’s world,” Mabeza says. “It is our responsibility to undo the ramifications it has had.”

    The Big Stage

    Mabeza plans to discuss the issues – and potential responses – during his prime-time presentation at FMX 2021 this fall. It’s exceedingly rare for a student to be given such a platform, and Mabeza intends to make the most of his opportunity to “speak truth to power.” He will highlight issues from his unique perspective, much as he did recently in the AMA Journal of Ethics.

    Beyond FMX, Mabeza hopes to build on the social justice progress countless family physicians have already made.

    “I can run because so many physicians have walked before me,” Mabeza says. “I believe we are at a turning point, given COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd. Nationally, people are more ready to have these conversations.”

    Mabeza says the people he connected with as part of the ELI program, including Danielle Jones, PhD, MPH, director of the AAFP Center for Diversity and Health Equity, add fuel to his fire for public health advocacy.

    “When I was working on my ELI project, I had a team of kindred spirits – people I could 100% trust,” Mabeza says. “That makes all the difference. When I was faltering, they buoyed me.

    “ELI has given me connections that lead to insights. There’s good data on physician/patient concordance – a better understanding of the nuances of how a person navigates the world leads to better health care.

    “I want to open doors for people who have been traditionally under-represented in medicine,” Mabeza says. “There are meaningful ways to do something, and I am just one of many people who sincerely believe we will rise up and change medicine for the better.”