February is always an exciting time for me. Being that we are still at the beginning of a new year, it’s a great time to make new goals for 2019. But it’s also AMERICAN HEART MONTH. So that makes it a double treat!  This is a designated time to be kind to your heart. After all, it’s no accident that Valentine’s Day falls on the same month. So please stop, and give yourself a valentine.


Heart Month is a great time to reflect on all the advances we’ve seen in the last several years with regard to heart health.  I feel so fortunate to have witnessed so many of these medical breakthroughs throughout my career.

But we’ve got a long way to go. Heart disease remains the nation’s number one killer. It crosses both genders and races irrespective of social or economic class.

Being that I practice integrative cardiology and functional medicine, I endeavor to stratify my patient’s risks and formulate an individual plan. It’s about looking outside the box and going beyond prescribing pharmaceuticals and stenting arteries.

What I’m talking about is practicing prevention. Why is this so vital? Well, if we simply give meds and open up or bypass arteries, we aren’t really addressing the root of the problem. By fixing a problem and putting a band-aid on it, we are placing a temporary hold on it.  That’s enough to oftentimes save a life, but it won’t hold forever.

If left unchecked, heart disease can develop into a malignant problem. It is not uncommon to have one stent followed by another, or one heart attack or stroke followed by another. Through practicing prevention and adopting lifestyle changes. we all can make a difference in outcomes.

That’s what being a medical advocate is all about. Using myself as an example, a few years ago I was admitted emergently to the hospital twice in a span of 17 months for two unrelated conditions. As a patient, I learned firsthand the pitfalls of the current medical model. I quickly discovered that it was much more than prescribed medication that was going to optimize my health in the long run.


As an aside, if you want to learn about the journey that elevated me to the position of Medical Advocate, you’ll have to wait until my upcoming book is published; “From Both Sides Of The Table: When Doctor becomes Patient.”

Suffice it to say, I quickly learned that it was up to me to take charge of my health. Today, as the Medical Advocate, my aim is to encourage my patients, my readers and my audiences to stay in the driver’s seat when it comes to their health. Yes, there is no substitute for excellence when it comes to our doctors, nurses, health professionals and hospitals. But that’s not enough.

Furthermore, it can’t end there. Each and every one of us has the right and responsibility to be on the front line when it comes to our health. Know this: You don’t have to be a medical professional to assume this vital role.


In my book I outline an approach that everyone can follow. As a patient you are entitled to what I call a bill of rights. It’s your birthright. But to ensure optimal communication with medical providers, a patient has to assume certain responsibilities. This is equally important. Better communication between patient and doctor will hopefully lead to better outcomes.  


  • RIGHT OF INDIVIDUALITY: having a unique treatment plan verses a cookie cutter or “clinical pathway.”

  • RIGHT OF CHOICE: choosing a doctor who exhibits more than knowledge and experience. Also needed are empathy, listening skills and intuition.

  • RIGHT OF ENCOURAGEMENT: selecting a physician who is well-rounded. Being up to date with cutting edge developments as well as openness to alternative or integrative treatments is vital.

  • RIGHT TO BE HEARD: Being able to say,” Doctor, listen to me. I don’t doubt your knowledge, but I know my body.”



  • PERSISTENCE: Being able to insist on being heard. The patient needs to have a role in setting the stage.

  • SELF EDUCATION: Doing your research and being prepared.

  • ASSUMPTION OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Accepting the fact that in 2019 and in the foreseeable future, insurance is not going to pay for all medical services needed to ensure your well-being.

We are witnessing a challenging time in health care, but it is also a very exciting time when we have so many incredible resources available to us. By assuming the role of medical advocate and insisting on your BILL OF RIGHTS while exercising your PATIENT RESPONSIBILITIES, I truthfully believe that optimal care is available to all who seek it.

This is how I have evolved in my personal life. It is also how I have been practicing medicine for several years. As a result, I have been both humbled and amazed by my patients’ outcomes.

A very healthy NEW YEAR and happy HEART MONTH to all,

Howard Elkin, MD

chelsea barocio