Profiles in Advocacy: Lori Legano

Lori Legano is a pediatrician at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Her specialty is child abuse pediatrics.

Why did you decide to do child abuse pediatrics?

Adolescents are my favorite to work with because you can talk to them directly. They’re interesting, they’re challenging, they can tell you a long history.

How do you define advocacy?

Advocacy works on multiple levels. People traditionally see it as legislative advocacy, basically you’re advocating for what’s going to be societal change, on the city level or state level, etc. But as physicians we advocate within our hospitals, for our pediatric services, so our patients get what they need.

What key advocacy issues have you been involved in recently or in the past?

We have a program called CHAMP, a mentoring program for teaching other professionals how to do child abuse evaluation. Reach Out and Read is a really big part of our clinic. On a daily basis, I advocate with the kids that I see here and in foster care. I work for parents seeking asylum for themselves and their kids. I do [medical] exams and a lot of the times in court we advocate for a child to stay in a safe environment.

What are some prominent rewarding advocacy experiences?

I recently had a success story on a patient level. We had a patient come in for a routine pediatric GYN issue. When I looked in the chart I saw that the mother had lost the insurance. A story unfolded that her country had brought her here, but because of political reasons she lost her job, she lost her housing, she was seeking asylum [in the U.S.]. She was about to be homeless. We worked with her. We took her upstairs to something called Health Leads. Students work in the clinic as part of the program and patients can go up to the desk and ask about day cares, food banks, literacy programs, etc. We have a program where a family has a foundation and they fund kids going to camp. So now her daughter is able to go to camp. She actually just got a job and found out she was eligible for Medicaid, even while seeking asylum. She keeps coming back because we’re her contact person.

What’s your advocacy pearl?

The most important thing is to advocate for something you’re passionate about. If you’re advocating to legislatures then make it real and practical. Have a couple stories that you feel comfortable telling. You need to talk from your own experience. It makes a difference when you can talk about your own experiences. They hear from a lot of people, but sometimes there’s that one vignette from a story that they’ll grab on to.