The Iowa Medical Society (IMS) recently named Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Dr. Brian Privett as its 171st IMS president.
Privett, who hails from Kennett, Missouri, is an ophthalmologist residing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he has lived for nine years. He graduated from Southeast in 2003, earning a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in biology, chemistry and music.
IMS is an advocacy and resource association representing all Iowan physicians and medical students that works to improve the quality of health care in Iowa. The president is the public face of the society and represents physicians in the media and at various events across the state, Privett said.
His one-year term as president began in April, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Privett said it has looked different from the terms of his predecessors. Instead of hosting in-person events, IMS leaders have been busy retooling the society to provide virus-specific resources to physicians and clinics and working with state officials to address policy issues specific to COVID-19.
Along with the expansion of telemedicine insurance coverage that provides patients access to their physicians from the safety of their homes, Privett said IMS is looking into ways it can address the issue of race-related public health disparities in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic.
Privett first became interested in ophthalmology after growing up near someone who “really loved their job” and was one of the only ophthalmologists in the area.
“We not only get to work with our hands but also some amazing technology that is always improving,” he said. “The newest lens implants we use for cataract surgery allow many people to see better than they ever saw without glasses or contacts.”
Career moments that stand out for Privett are simple: hearing from patients for whom he caught a diagnosis or prescribed a treatment that worked.
“People really value their vision, and it is nice when someone takes the time to write and say thanks,” he said.
After Southeast, Privett attended medical school at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, and then completed an ophthalmology residency at the University of Iowa. When he looks back on that time, Privett says he remembers being more academically prepared for medical school than many of his classmates, an advantage he attributes to the smaller class sizes and engaging faculty at Southeast.
“I took on a lot of leadership positions during my time at Southeast for fun and social interaction, but those experiences made me more confident to take on leadership opportunities in my career,” he said.
Privett said he spent much of his time at Southeast “surrounded by great people” in groups such as the Presidential Ambassadors, the Emerging Leaders Program, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, the University Choir and the Southeast Marching Band.
Now, Privett says two young children keep him busy and he still enjoys singing as well as spending time with his wife, who he says is “the reason I have time to dedicate to the Iowa Medical Society.” He’s also a board member for his favorite volunteer organization, the Boy Scouts of America, as well as his son’s den leader.
“Scouting emphasizes outdoor learning, life skills, character building and other qualities important to our nation’s young people,” he said.
Privett called Southeast “a great gift” and advised students and graduates not to take attending the University for granted.
“My education and experiences at Southeast prepared me very well for medical school and my career,” he said. “If you do something you love and you do something that benefits others, you will go a long way.”