Judy Schaechter, M.D., M.B.A., professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is the 2021 recipient of the Audrey Lincourt Schiebler, R.N., F.A.A.P., and Gerold Schiebler, M.D. F.A.A.P. Advocacy Award.
The annual award recognizes physicians who have gone above and beyond their professional roles to educate local and state legislators and advocate to improve the health and welfare of Florida’s children.
And in October, during the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) annual meeting in Philadelphia, Dr. Schaechter will take the national stage to receive the AAP’s Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention’s Fellow Achievement Award.
In both cases, Dr. Schaechter said she is "humbled by the company she keeps.“
Dr. Schiebler and his wife have a long history of advocating vociferously for children,” Dr. Schaechter said. “To be held in the shadows of Dr. Schiebler is a great honor.”
Driving Children's Initiatives
The Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention’s Fellow Achievement Award, according to Dr. Schaechter, has been presented to injury prevention giants the likes of Barbara Barlow, M.D., of Columbia University; Denise D. Dowd, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Kansas School of Medicine; Marilyn J. Bull, M.D., of Indiana University School of Medicine; Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., of Seattle Children’s Hospital; and Gary A. Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Schaechter, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow, has helped to drive several initiatives at the Miller School that focus on providing children with access to quality health care, as well as keeping them safe.
For example, she was instrumental in increasing children’s access to health care in Miami schools.
“When we started, approaching 20 percent of children in Florida were uninsured, and across our Miami Dade County’s 335 schools only seven percent of students had access to school nurses,” Dr. Schaechter said. “So, we worked with collaborators across the County to make sure we were offering health care and mental health care for kids in 170 local schools, first targeting those in the most impoverished areas,
with the least access to health care resources. Those services have continued more than 10 years.”
Dr. Schaechter’s work in injury prevention has addressed many issues, including protection of our vaccine supply, advocating for a Florida booster seat law, and making sure that all parents have access to car seats and know how to install them properly.
Preventing Gun Deaths
She also has worked tirelessly to prevent death from gun violence.
“I truly believe that gun death is America’s most preventable child death,” Dr. Schaechter said. In 2011 when the Physician Gag Law went into effect in Florida restricting physicians’ ability to discuss gun injury risk with patients and families, Dr. Schaechter took a stand for children’s safety.
“The law attempted to ban physician speech by prohibiting our ability to ask if there was a gun at home, which of course is a risk for children. Yet, the AAP guidelines recommended screening for child access to firearms,” Dr. Schaechter said.
To send the message that pediatricians opposed the Florida law, Dr. Schaechter became the first Child Safety Chair of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She also became the first pediatrician to contest the law.
“The Chapter, along with the national American Academy of Pediatrics, joined in full support," she said. "The pediatricians in our state rallied and it took seven years, but it was overturned, which was essential to our practice and the safety of children."
Dr. Schaechter’s commitment to advocating for children has led to many other leadership positions, including the presidency of the National Injury Free Coalition for Kids. She founded the Coalition’s Miami chapter in 2000.
Providing a Voice
She said her work is in line with the Miller School’s commitment to advocating for children.
“The University of Miami has a proud history of speaking up for those whose voices are not heard, whether they are children who are not in the halls of power, or new immigrants to our community, or children growing up in poverty," she said. "The University of Miami has made it its mission to not only care for those children but to drive forward advocacy and policy changes so they can access care, get a quality education and have the right start to thrive in life."
Dr. Schaechter will be retiring from the Miller School this fall to become the new president and CEO of the American Board of Pediatrics. She has been on the faculty of the Miller School of Medicine since 1997.
Dr. Schaechter is the second Miller School faculty member to receive the Advocacy Award. Jeffrey P. Brosco, M.D., Ph.D., director of population health ethics and professor of clinical pediatrics at the Miller School and associate director of the Mailman Center for Child Development, was the 2018 recipient.