2018-2019 Executive Committee

2018 - 2019 Executive Committee

Dr. Jessica Edwards, President
University of Rochester Medical Center
Family Medicine with OB

CIR has created a culture at our hospital where residents are happy and are fairly compensated for their work. They also are not afraid to stand up and fight for the issues that matter because we have support.

I have learned that your voice matters, no matter how big or small the stage is. Getting involved and being heard as residents is one of the most important things that you can do. When we talk, people listen and we should use that platform to advocate for our patients and our field.

More chapters mean more strength. We should be organizing more chapters.

I plan to help the organizations by using my voice and influence as a physician to affect change at my hospital and beyond and spread the word about CIR.

Dr. Michelle Fletcher, Executive Vice President
Jackson Memorial Hospital
Obstetrics and Gynecology

Being an “open shop” chapter down in Florida, our membership truly reflects our strength. Since becoming an active member my intern year, I have seen how powerful a strong CIR leadership can be. We have had many financial wins – negotiating competitive raises and increases in educational stipends. However, more importantly, have been our non-monetary gains such as building a partnership and establishing a wellness committee with our hospital administration, and obtaining a commitment to help our residents with child-care needs. Our resident involvement has increased across the board. We have rising resident leaders becoming involved in community outreach, advocacy, wellness, and QI initiatives within their departments and hospital-wide, which are directly impacting training and patient care. This year we had the opportunity to represent our chapter at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and undergo training in building community partnerships. This was one of the more educational and motivating experiences of my life.

Over the years, my work with CIR has provided me with leadership skills and has taught me so much about negotiation, bargaining, working hand in hand with administration, as well as about networking, health policy, and advocacy work. All of the skills I have obtained have made me a stronger and well-rounded physician.

CIR has different needs at the local and national level as each chapter varies greatly within itself. My goals for this upcoming year are to continue developing and growing my chapter in South Florida. At the national level I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues from across the country to learn and fight for improved training, education, and patient care. I think in order to continue to expand our influence and build a stronger presence for CIR, we should continue to work towards partnering with other well-known physician organizations whose ideals and goals align with ours. In that way, we enhance our access and communication with more training programs, giving us the opportunity to reach out to more residents.

Dr. Joanelle Bailey, Secretary-Treasurer
Rutgers University-New Jersey Medical School

CIR has been invaluable in helping residents reap the benefits our contract has given to us, even when our employer has not honored their end. The most exciting thing I have been involved with through CIR is speaking at a Newark City Council meeting on behalf of other residents in order to inform our community of some events at Rutgers.

I have learned that coming together as a group of residents from different specialties is much more powerful than any individual specialty, even when dealing with issues affecting only a small number of residents of a particular specialty. Additionally, I have learned that we, as physicians, have a voice in the community and can make a difference politically, even when it feels as though we are too busy to do so.

I would love to help CIR expand into nearby hospitals with residency programs that are not currently part of a union. I think the more numbers we have, the louder our voice will be heard. To be a more effective national voice for residents, I think CIR should devote more time to issues of social justice.

I believe that organizing and advocacy are our biggest opportunities to make a difference on the national level. Involving more residents locally and in the administration will allow our union to grow nationally. Additionally, getting involved in social justice issues that affect our communities and some of us personally is an important voice for the interns, residents, and fellows. Excellence for our patients, our training and our healthcare system cannot be achieved without justice for all those involved in the US healthcare system.

Dr. Latoya Frolov, Northern California Regional Vice President
UCSF Medical Center

Being a part of CIR has taught me how to advocate for patients and fellow residents. I have been an active member of CIR since 2015, a delegate at SFGH from 2016 to 2018, and an appointed advisor to the CIR executive committee from the newly unionized UCSF bargaining unit from 2017 to 2018. I have had a terrific time bargaining for a new contract for SFGH and UCSF, attending national executive committee meetings in New York to make sure Northern California voices are heard, and connecting with other house staff union members from around the country. I am thrilled to take a more active role in our regional efforts, and I look forward to working with members to make sure their voices are heard, as well as enhancing and unifying our regional advocacy. I am hoping to improve communication within and across chapters, and I intend to continue sitting at the table as often as possible and reaching out to fellow residents to get them involved.

Dr. Hannah Janeway, Southern California North Regional Vice President
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Emergency Medicine

CIR empowers residents to fight for change within their hospitals and the healthcare system as a whole, thus improving our ability to serve our patients and our communities.

CIR has taught me to advocate effectively for changes focusing on patient-centered care, to work in unity with a wide array of residents throughout the hospital and the country, and to push the administration to improve resident life overall.

I would like to improve the union’s overall reach, by incorporating more residents and helping them to utilize the union to fight for needed changes. In order for CIR to be an even more powerful voice, I would like to see the union create a more unified effort nationally.

As a non-traditional student who spent many years working as a community activist both here and abroad, I bring unique perspective. Over the last two years as an active member with CIR, I have initiated many efforts to increase resident, faculty and administrative diversity, involve residents in the decision making process through a hospital wide survey, initiate a LGBTQ advisory board, petition the police department for accountability, help residents achieve their visions for improvements in patient, and form a group of physicians to provide healthcare at direct political action events. These were all initiatives I started with the help of my fellow CIR delegates. In the past year, I have been working with the administration to increase overall diversity, securing over $15,000 in funding. I plan on continuing to focus on these efforts and to extend them to the union as a whole. In addition, I want to increase community outreach efforts. I feel strongly that it is through our connection to the communities that we serve that we can achieve power for the measures we communally desire to achieve.

Given the current political environment for organized labor in the United States, CIR has a responsibility to continue to fight on the national stage for workers rights. While we are a small union, it will take a unified effort on the national stage to push back the tide of anti-union legislation that is sweeping the country. At the same time, CIR must not lose sight of the union’s overall mission and continue to advocate and fight the important battles facing our fellow residents and patients at the hospitals where we work.

Dr. Thomas Azeizat, Southern California South Regional Vice President
UC Irvine Medical Center
Family Medicine

Dr. Jacob Bailey, Southern California North Regional Vice President
LAC + USC Medical Center

As a delegate for 3 years I have seen the powerful voice CIR can be for residents and fellows. While a prominent member of the collective bargaining team during our last contract negotiation we successfully achieved the first pay-increase for interns in over 10 years. Other CIR successes I have been fortunate to be involved with include a $300,000 QI fund, expansion of County payouts for EMR, a medical expense reimbursement fund, and approval for a resident lounge among many others. Each success is a powerful testament to the impact our union can have.

The most inspiring aspect of serving as a CIR delegate has been collaborating with fellow residents to improve our work experience. For each of us this comes in different forms. This collaboration continues to teach me the particular challenges my co-residents face in their respective programs and departments.

Despite the differences in our programs and hospitals, much of our day-to-day work is regulated at the national level by the ACGME. In order to improve common program requirements, family leave and support, and other aspects of our job we need to establish and maintain meaningful relationships with the ACGME Resident Council and Board of Directors. My dream is to see our democratic voice seated at the table with those that control our training. As such, I hope to use my experience as the acting Graduate Medical Education Committee CIR representative.

To help our residents achieve their goals in organizing, bargaining, and advocacy I intend to use lessons learned from previous successes. With fellow colleagues I recently organized a winning vote at our institution for our sustained financial viability. Our previous contract negotiations were a resounding success with significant increases to our salaries and benefits. Finally, I have been interviewed several times for Spanish-language media advocating for our immigrant community in Los Angeles County.

Our union is an example of organized labor cutting across the spectrum of the increasingly stratified and hierarchical workforce. We show that organized labor has a place for all workers, whether they are a professional or tradesperson. As such it is important for us to collaborate, be politically active, and further democratize the workforce. As a VP of the Southern California North Region, I hope to continue helping residents elsewhere go through the unionization and collective bargaining process, and organize their own advocacy initiatives.

Dr. Linda Alvarez, Florida Regional Vice President
Jackson Memorial Hospital
Family Medicine

In the current political climate, I have seen CIR step above and beyond the call of representing residents and addressing our needs. Working for a safety-net hospital in a previous sanctuary city (Miami), I have personally seen patients become apprehensive of trusting our hospital system. CIR has provided myself and my co-residents a platform to collectively voice our current concerns for our patients and the community we serve. Through ACA Town Hall meetings, national call-in days and community outreach events, CIR has provided me with a voice to not only care for my patients but protect my community.

I feel as though CIR has allowed me to become a more well-rounded resident. The different aspects of CIR including our advocacy work and collective bargaining, have taught me how to effectively and powerfully voice the concerns of my co-residents and myself. The various committees in CIR allow an opportunity to better my networking skills with other residents in my hospital as well as associated attendings and leaders in my community.

Although CIR uses multiple modalities to communicate with residents, I think an area of improvement would be accessibility. With the time demands and rotation schedules of multiple specialties being so different, some residents may feel that they cannot contribute to CIR because their schedules don’t allow it. I think encouraging residents to contribute to CIR in other ways (aside from just attending meetings) may engage more members to take an active role in the organization.

Our strength in CIR as an organization is the number of residents we are and we represent. Coming from a CIR chapter where members must “opt-in” to become part of the organization, I have learned how to engage my colleagues for the mission of CIR. I have also helped encourage resident members to be vocal about issues they show an interest in. I hope to use these acquired skills to help other CIR leaders do the same within their chapters and strengthen our CIR community.

Dr. Swathi Damodaran, Massachusetts Regional Vice President
Cambridge Health Alliance

CIR has made an incredible impact on my hospital. From improving the work-place environment for residents, to supporting projects that enrich direct patient care, to helping residents build skills in leadership, CIR has a tremendous influence on promoting the mission of my hospital and enhancing the training experiences of our interns, residents, and fellows. One of the most exciting CIR experiences I have been a part of was participating in a collective action workshop where residents brainstormed ways we could help our immigrant patients. Being a part of this advocacy work was energizing and reminded me of the larger ways in which we can improve the lives of our patients as physicians.

As a CIR member, I have learned how to be a better advocate and leader both for my patients and for my colleagues. I have learned the steps needed for collective action and come to appreciate more the power of having a unified voice in improving our work.

One area in which I think CIR can improve is reaching a broader array of residency programs. Right now, most CIR hospitals are all along the coasts and we are missing a critical voice by having no representation in the middle of the country. To truly be a national voice for residents, we need to understand the needs of residents working in all areas of the United States.

While the main goal of CIR is to empower our nation’s residents and fellows, I believe that this work is most effectively done at the local level. For me, that means strengthening the Massachusetts CIR hospitals in their ability to organize and advocate for issues affecting the work and training of CIR members as well as improving the healthcare system for our patients. I hope to help our organization grow by supporting the leadership development of CIR members in Massachusetts and by creating a structure of organization for collective action between all of the Massachusetts CIR hospitals that is sustainable beyond the tenure of current CIR members.

CIR must be an active leader in facing attacks on organized labor. The threats we have against us are real and concerning. We should use our collective action power to partner with other unions, including the larger SEIU family, to not only fight against those who want to dismantle unions, but to also remind our country why organized labor is so important to service sectors like ours.

Dr. Robert Rymowicz, New Jersey/D.C. Regional Vice President
Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School

CIR  most directly impacted my  hospital by keeping Rutgers honest. Being a member of CIR has taught me that residents have to fight for their contractually guaranteed rights and for the optimal patient care.

I hope to contribute to contract negotiations, encourage residents to become more active, and advocate for the rights of employees to unionize and continue to have a voice.

Dr. Peter Nguyen, New Jersey/D.C. Regional Vice President
St. Elizabeth’s

During my first year of residency, our CIR representative was instrumental in our contract negotiations. Through the organization’s experience and support, my fellow residents and I learned crucial techniques for contract negotiations. We were able to successfully work with our hospital’s administration and the local government in negotiating our contract and securing provisions that improved our work conditions.

As previously stated, my fellow residents and I gained invaluable knowledge and experience in techniques for proper contract negotiations. I also learned much about professional development and how to tackle difficult issues on an individual, organization and government level.

Residency is a busy time! I would like to see how CIR can empower residents to become more involved.

It is my belief that leadership is more effective when utilizing a bottom up, rather than top down, philosophy. As such I would like to establish a plan with my fellow New Jersey VP in which we visit our region’s residency programs and discuss with the residents to discuss the strengths and limitations of their program in these areas of patient care, medical education, and healthcare systems. More so, we would serve to help programs and residents collaborate regarding planning and executing plans regarding the issues that motivate them.

In today’s political environment, unions are more important than ever to advocate for their members. I believe CIRs role in the larger labor movement is to represent the training aspect in the field of healthcare.

Martin Gonzales, New Mexico Regional Vice President
University of New Mexico

Amy Plasencia, New York Regional Vice President
Brookdale Hospital Medical Center
Internal Medicine

The greatest way I have seen CIR impact Brookdale is with last years contract negotiations; they helped residents lobby for increased pay, improved work flow to decrease out of title work (such as phlebotomy and transporting patient), and helped establish a $75k patient safety fund that is to be run by residents. When administration attempted to take control of the patient safety fund, CIR was there to help ensure the power stayed in the hands of the residents. Allowing residents more time to focus on patient care and less time on performing ancillary services, such as drawing blood, has greatly improved the quality of care we provide our patients and has made the residents much happier in their daily work activities.

CIR has taught me a tremendous amount about how to be a resident leader, how to galvanize support for a cause and how to work with administration to reach a common goal – improving patient care. In my role as departmental representative for CIR, I have become a more confident, have improved my interpersonal skills and have learned how to communicate effectively with other residents and hospital administration particularly in times of opposing opinions.

I believe that for CIR to increase their national efficacy we need to increase our membership, not only in current CIR hospitals but also by increasing out-reach to non-CIR hospitals in an effort to promote unionization. If elected RVP I would be interested in visiting non-CIR hospitals in the NY area to encourage residents to unionize and improve their residency experience.

I intend to help CIR empower our nation’s interns, residents and fellows by helping increase union membership, specifically by helping unionize formerly non-unionized hospitals. I additionally would make myself available to help leadership at struggling CIR hospitals to improve their experience in any way I can.

CIR has done a tremendous job of raising awareness of the current political attack on unions and encouraging residents to fight back. I can say with confidence that my residency experience would be worse without the presence of CIR. As such, I believe that CIR should continue to raise awareness of the threats facing unions and continue to encourage their members to fight back by reaching out to their local government or participating in rallies and protests.

Dr. Josephine Orrico, New York Regional Vice President 
St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital

CIR is a very visible force at Mount Sinai St. Lukes and West Hospitals. This past year we entered into contract negotiations with Mount Sinai. Through the dedication and support of the majority of our residents, many of who were able to attending a majority of our meetings with management, we were able to negotiate for much deserved salary increases as well as paternity leave and increases in our educational allowances.

I have learned that CIR is a union made strong by the interest and involvement of its residents. If residents are brought together by a common goal, CIR is able to assist in the achievement of that goal. CIR is not only a organization that supports our residents at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and West, it is also a large multidisciplinary community that any resident or residency program can utilize to raise a topic of interest and achieve a common goal for the betterment of our residents and patient population. We look to improve the lives and wellbeing of all our residents from all departments and the lives and wellbeing of our surrounding communities and CIR gives us the forum to bring these matters to attention of our peers and hospital management and achieve success.

CIR needs to share the successes that it has achieved, both big and small, at it’s member hospitals. Resident wellbeing is paramount and communicating what one hospital was able to achieve is essential in making residents in other hospital systems realize that they have a voice and that that voice is powerful and can garner results. I think that sending outside delegates who recently went through contract negotiations to hospitals who will will be shortly entering the contract negotiation process to talk about their successes and what did and did not work would be invaluable.

Despite the extreme amounts of stress residents are under, a common goal always brings us together, which is our compassion. This compassion is not only for our patients but also towards each other. Our compassion is one of the ultimate reasons most of us went into medicine. I firmly believe that it’s the small things that matter. A smile, a hug, a kind word, all sometimes make the biggest impact. With that, I like to say to keep things straightforward and make an endeavor to pursue goals that might not benefit you directly but overall improves the lives of others around you. I want to raise awareness that when things don’t seem to be fair or done in a correct way, that you take note of it and that you think of ways to improve the situation. Realize that maybe a change needs to be made and remember that CIR and all its residents is always there to assist in making that change. The best way to share this is by establishing more open communication channels between CIR chapters and their regional and national delegates.

Dissolution of labor unions in the United States would allow for many of the large hospital systems to dictate terms that would likely be unfavorable to many of our residents. It also weakens the position of other non-CIR residency programs by not providing a higher industry standard of benefits and wages that outside hospitals are endeavoring to match. I believe that CIR should show our support of upholding the spirit of labor union laws.

Dr. Pankaj Manocha,, New York Regional Vice President
Bronx Lebanon Hospital

My interest as a psychiatry resident incorporates wellness of all my resident colleagues. This led me to get involved with our union at first and later gave me an opportunity to network with other residents at a regional and national level. Networking with the residents from other hospitals enabled us to negotiate a better contract for us.

I can’t imagine not having a CIR at our Hospital. CIR has helped us improve our workplace environment by calling the labor-management meetings with our hospital management on several occasions. With the help of CIR, we were able to negotiate a better contract which includes two percent increase in our salary for next three years, a designated fund for patient care up to 30,000 USD/year. We were also able to secure a WIFI at our hospital building for residents.

The most exciting thing for me at a personal level is CIR’s Family Health Challenge (FHC). FHC is an eight-week community-based program for 7-11 years old children for developing healthy lifestyle habits. I enjoy the opportunity to work with the kids in school and find it extremely fulfilling. CIR not only provided me an opportunity and experience to network with colleagues at our hospital, region and nationally but is also our collective voice which gives us strength as residents at our hospital, in our region and at the national level.

The use of social media for advocacy work is essential. I would like to involve more residents in our hospital and in our region for outreach. I also feel bringing CIR to other hospitals across the region that will help to increase our strength. Joining other unions across the nation will increase the strength of our union as well. In my opinion, involving social media to show cohesiveness may be another way for us to counter organized labor attacks.

As a CIR Hospital Delegate in 2017, I have continued to work with my fellow colleagues on ongoing issues. We are constantly working on improving work conditions at our hospital in terms of security, which was highlighted by a shooting at our hospital that happened earlier in June 2017 where a doctor was killed and five other doctors were wounded severely. We are working on a CIR supported survey to understand the impact of workplace violence on residents and help develop the multidisciplinary task force to handle it. As a psychiatry resident, I also wish to explore our role in the wellbeing of our colleagues not only at my hospital but also at regional and national levels.

Dr. Christina Gomez, New York Regional Vice President 
New York Methodist Hospital

CIR was a key factor in bargaining the “patient care fund” as part of our contract. Allowing allocation funds to departments that required updated and crucial medical equipment. For example, something as simple as an ultrasound, critical in central line placement; initially was unavailable in the MICU. Through patient care fund allocation, the hospital agreed to purchase medical equipment, including an ultrasound in order to meet the needs of our residents and offer better patient care.

Through CIR, our residents have a voice in advocating for our members. By unity we can make changes that overall improves residency quality of life and provides a safer work environment.

Reaching medical professionals before residency is an area where CIR can improve awareness and membership. Medical students need to be informed of CIR and seek membership at their residency hospitals.

Power in numbers, 100% membership, this speaks volumes. I plan to continue to promoting the work of CIR and encouraging others to get involved.

CIR stands strong through the lobbying of organized labor. However small, CIR should act in solidarity against the threat on unions.

Dr. Benjamin Abiri, New York Regional Vice President 
Bellevue Hospital Center

CIR has impacted patient care at Bellevue hospitals by fighting for access to scrubs and white coats, as well as creating house-staff spaces in the hospital for residents on call. CIR has also fought to reduce the amount of out of title work performed by residents, enhancing our ability to deliver patient care.

I would like to help CIR develop a national presence for residents primarily in our associated hospitals but also for all physician trainees in the rapidly changing field of healthcare. CIR has taught me the importance of organization in advocacy and negotiation.

Strengthening our ability to organize will help our ability to advocate for our goals in patient care as well as physician wellness. We may be a relatively small union, but as trainees in such a critical profession that generates tremendous national interest, our ability to stand alongside other healthcare unions will be incredibly valuable moving forward.

Dr. Roberto C. Cerrud-Rodriguez, New York Regional Vice President 
St. Barnabas Hospital
Internal Medicine

I have been a delegate since intern year and was reelected as a PGY-2. My hospital had the worst paid residents in The Bronx, so I decided to become intimately involved in the contract bargaining sessions that saw me and my peers get a pay raise that brought us much closer to the average salary in the region. I can say that we are finally gaining a living wage thanks to the organizing efforts of CIR, but we still have a lot of work to be done on our hands.

I have learned the value of teamwork when dealing with entities that have a disproportionate amount of power compared to individual members. As a part of CIR, you know you’re not alone, and that you will always have someone backing you up.

Thanks to my experience as a delegate, I learned that CIR can do better if we add a personal touch to their communications. There is no substitute for a having a actual human being, not an email, sitting down with you and explaining what the next steps will be. That tends to bring people over to your side.

I intend to help the organization grow in its collective bargaining efforts by using the experience I earned to guide our new members on how to avoid common mistakes and how to present a united front towards the hospital administration.

CIR should join forces with other unions and develop a strategy that would allow everyone on us the attack on unions by actively proselytizing, growing our numbers, and coordinating strategies by legal challenges and by an aggressive PR campaign, showing that unions are the voice of united labor.

Margot Riphagen, Executive Director, Committee of Interns and Residents

Margot Riphagen transitioned into her new role from her previous position as National Field Director, and was sworn in on May 19, 2018.

Riphagen comes into leadership at a critical moment for CIR/SEIU, and the American labor movement in general, with the U.S. Supreme Court moving to prohibit mandatory union fees for all public sector unions nationwide in their decision in the Janus v AFSCME case.  Riphagen says that CIR is poised to face these challenges head on, and looks to the new initiatives that the organization is focusing on. “We’ve known about the challenges to organized labor, and we are ready to face them head on. We live in a time where innovation in technology has allowed us to position ourselves as the new face of organized workers,” says Riphagen, pointing to CIR’s most recent victory, a historic win which brought 1,450 University of California residents into the fold–the largest chapter organized in CIR’s existence.

Margot has spent her career organizing healthcare workers around various progressive public health and social issues. She’s worked closely with home health care workers, EMS providers, nurses and most recently, resident physicians in her role as National Field Director at CIR/SEIU. Having organized thousands of workers, she’s led initiatives that have guaranteed workers’ rights on the job, increased access to healthcare for vulnerable communities, and supported legislation to expand public health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Margot has also spent several years working in New Orleans and across the South as the Southern Field Director for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She managed their legislative and political affairs and fought to improve healthcare access for families and women in the South.

Margot completed her undergraduate studies DePaul University and holds a Masters in Public Health from Creighton University.  

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