The Tennessean’s Tennessee Voices
David Plazas and Dr. Andrea Willis
August 21, 2020
To view the full interview, please click here.
Dr. Andrea Willis knew she wanted to be a medical doctor when, as a little girl in Athens, Alabama, she sought to help a cat give birth to kittens.
Today, Willis is the senior vice president and chief medical officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which provides health insurance for 70% of Tennesseans.
She is a frequent guest column contributor on health issues to the USA TODAY Network – Tennessee; but her most recent op-ed focused on racial justice, specifically recognizing racism as a public health threat.
Willis spoke about her background and her contributions in this episode of the Tennessee Voices video podcast.
We discussed the role of empathy, how expanded telehealth is helping patients during the COVID-19 era, fighting health misinformation and building trust with marginalized communities.
Willis mentioned the Tuskegee Study — a 40-year examination of untreated syphilis in Black men — as one example why many African Americans mistrust the American health care system.
We also talked about some of the growing crises in the time of the coronavirus: a rising rate of painkiller abuse, untreated chronic health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, and a growing incidence of mental illness diagnoses.
When she is not working, Willis enjoys reading detective novels, including tomes by James Patterson, but also nonfiction works such as “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. She also enjoys exercising and watching television programs like NBC’s “World of Dance.”