The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role of the family physician and primary care providers in our health system. Doctors, nurses and other health care workers in hospitals and emergency rooms have responded with bravery and resilience to the pandemic. Less visible have been the thousands of primary care and family physicians who are the first point of contact for patients when they develop symptoms.

Family physicians have had to innovate, make rapid changes to their practice environment for the safety of patients and staff, and pivot to telemedicine to ensure patients have access to uninterrupted care. These issues are compounded by a looming 50,000 primary care physician shortage nationwide. On Thursday, Oct. 8 at 10:00 a.m. ET, Washington Post Live gathers the top medical minds, key lawmakers and mental health experts to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our primary care system and family physicians.



Mike Varshavski, DO

YouTube Star and Primary Care Physician

With over 12 million social media followers, Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, commonly known as "Doctor Mike," is a multifaceted board-certified family medicine physician, media personality, educator, writer, and philanthropist. Emigrating with from Russia to New York at the age of 6, Doctor Mike grew up to pursue his medical degree at the New York Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Life Sciences and a Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine with honors by the age of 24.

During his residency, Doctor Mike decided to document his journey and share his medical learnings with the internet. Over the next few years, he garnered 651+ million views, making his platform one of the largest in health education. Leveraging his media presence and impact in the medical community, he covers the importance of health literacy while simultaneously battling misinformation in a practical, yet entertaining approach.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, the common saying “if it bleeds it leads” rang ever-true in the news, and the public’s anxiety was fueled. Doctor Mike made it his mission for his platform to be a news source where only the most reliable and up-to-date information was reported. His audience has trusted him in this troublesome time to be an honest and fact-forward source of information. Because of the trust he has built, Doctor Mike has made appearances and consulted on many mainstream news channels such as CNN, ABC and Fox News, alongside interviewing some of the United States’ most notable health professionals, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the head of Google Health, Dr. David Feinberg. In June, Mike was named an ambassador for the United Nations’ “Verified” initiative. Additionally, Doctor Mike donated $50,000 in masks to his local hospital and raised over $65,000 for the CDC Foundation.

Patrice Harris, MD

Immediate Past President, American Medical Association

Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, a psychiatrist from Atlanta, was the 174th president of the American Medical Association, and the organization’s first African American woman to hold this position. Dr. Harris has diverse experience as a private practicing physician, county public health director, patient advocate and medical society lobbyist.

Dr. Harris currently spearheads the AMA’s efforts to end the opioid epidemic and has been chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force since its inception in 2014. Dr. Harris continues to lead the task force as it works across every state to eliminate barriers to treatment, provide patients with access to affordable, non-opioid pain care, and fight the stigma faced by those with substance use-disorders.

Having served on the AMA Board of Trustees since 2011, and as chair from 2016 to 2017, she has long been a mentor, a role model and an advocate. Prior to serving on the board, Dr. Harris honed her broad knowledge and deep understanding of health care issues through various leadership roles. At the AMA these included having served for many years on the AMA Council on Legislation, including a term as chair, and on multiple AMA task forces on topics such as health information technology, payment and delivery reform, and private contracting. Beyond the AMA she has held positions of leadership with the American Psychiatric Association, the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, the Medical Association of Georgia, and The Big Cities Health Coalition, where she chaired this forum composed of leaders from America’s largest metropolitan health departments.

Growing up in Bluefield, W. Va., Dr. Harris dreamt of entering medicine at a time when few women of color were encouraged to become physicians. Dr. Harris spent her formative years at West Virginia University, earning a BA in psychology, an MA in counseling psychology and, ultimately, a medical degree in 1992.

Content from United Health Group

Catherine Florio Pipas, MD, MPH, Professor, Community and Family Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Dr. Pipas is Professor, Community & Family Medicine, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI) and Dept of Medical Education, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She has been recognized as a passionate leader in education, research and clinical care with awards including: 2019 STFM Humanism in Medicine Award, the 2019 Family Medicine Education Consortium “This We Believe” Award on “Caring for Me- Caring for You,” the 2017, 2018 and 2019 New Hampshire Top Doctor, Dartmouth Medical School Master Educator, AOA Honor Society, and Dartmouth Clinical Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Pipas serves on the Administrative Board of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Council of Faculty and Academic Societies, the Board of Trustees of Kimball Union Academy, and Leads the Family Medicine Education Consortium Culture of Wellness Collaborative. Dr. Pipas is the Chief Wellness Officer for CaseNetwork, overseeing the design, implementation and assessment of CoreWellness and their Learning & Research Collaborative. Over the last 25 years, she has served as Assistant Dean, Vice Chair, Chief Clinical Officer, and Director of the Office of Community-Based Education and Research and Director of Dartmouth’s Regional Primary Care Center.

Ken Cohen, MD, FACP, Optum Care Senior Medical Director and Executive Director Clinical Research UHG R&D

Dr. Kenneth Cohen is an experienced physician leader, practicing internist, and researcher who has attained national recognition for health care quality improvement. He has successfully developed and reported numerous clinical quality studies in primary care, including tobacco cessation, osteoporosis, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and ischemic vascular disease. He is a founding physician of New West Physicians, one of the largest medical practices in Colorado, where he has served as Chief Medical Officer since 1995. Dr. Cohen also serves as Senior Medical Director for OptumCare, which New West became part of in 2017.

Dr. Cohen has received awards of recognition and distinction for teaching, including the Lutheran Medical Center Physician of the Year award in 2011. Under his stewardship, New West Physicians won the AMGA Acclaim award in 2015 and the Million Hearts Hypertension Champion Award in 2017.

He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Dr. Cohen holds degrees from Dickinson College and Hahnemann University. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha honor societies.

Elise Labott, Adjunct Professor, American University

Elise Labott is a leading journalist covering foreign US foreign policy and international issues, most recently as CNN’s Global Affairs Correspondent. She has reported from more than . 80 countries, traveled the world with seven secretaries of state and has interviewed many world leaders and newsmakers. Elise is the founder of Twopoint.o Media, a digital media platform that aims to engage, inform and inspire citizens to solve today’s most pressing global challenges, and an adjunct professor at American University’s School of International Service. She is a contributor to Politico, provides commentary for MSNBC, NPR, BBC and several other broadcast outlets and is a sought-after interviewer and moderator. Elise also serves as a global ambassador for Vital Voices, an organization that empowers female entrepreneurs around the world and is on the advisory committee of Global Kids DC, a program which introduces high school students in underserved communities to international affairs. Prior to joining CNN, Elise covered the UN for ABC News and also reported on diplomatic and foreign policy issues for Agence France-Presse and other publications. Elise is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a master’s degree from the New School for Social Research.