Health literacy expert Ruth M. Parker, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of General Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine, is the recipient of the 2005 Alvarez Award. The award was presented to Dr. Parker at the last month's American Medical Writers Association annual conference.
The Alvarez award honors Walter C. Alvarez, MD, a pioneer in the field of medical communication, and is given in recognition of excellence in communicating health care developments and concepts to the public.
During her speech at the conference, Dr. Parker praised Dr. Alvarez's work in medical communication and quoted an excerpt from his book, "How to Help Your Doctor Help You," which reads: "So often the man who knows much about his disease and its treatment lives long and comfortably while the man who does not know what to do loses his life needlessly."
"Dr. Alvarez was a true pioneer in health communication and stressed the importance of patients understanding what they need to know to take care of themselves," Dr. Parker says. "I am truly honored to receive an award named after him."
Dr. Parker is a general internist at Grady Memorial Hospital. For more than 14 years, she has devoted her medical career and advocacy efforts to the issue of health literacy -- how well people obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services when making decisions about their health. She has worked with numerous groups and agencies in an effort to change the widespread ignorance on the topic of health literacy.
Dr. Parker is a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Non-Prescription Drug Advisory Committee, which is responsible for providing recommendations on whether current prescription drugs should be sold over-the-counter. She has chaired the Expert Panel on Health Literacy, Council of Scientific Affairs, for the American Medical Association (AMA) that authored a frequently cited JAMA white paper on health literacy. She co-authored the National Library of Medicine Complete Bibliographies of Medicine on Health Literacy, and is chair of the Steering Committee for the AMA Foundation Signature Program: Partnership in Health -- Improving the Patient-Physician Relationship through Health Literacy. She has also served as a member of the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Health Literacy, which published a breakthrough report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion.
Dr. Parker is chair of the Programs Committee for the American College of Physicians Foundation, and past chair of its Patient Literacy Advisory Board, which has several national initiatives devoted to improving health literacy. She has received numerous grants for health literacy research, from organizations including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Prudential Center for Health Services Research.
Dr. Parker has authored or co-authored nearly 100 published articles, reviews, book chapters, and books.