At the end of June, the Philadelphia County Medical Society (PCMS) held an event to celebrate its outgoing president, Natalia Ortiz-Torrent, MD, DFAPA, FACLP, FPCP, the 159th physician to preside over the Society and the first Hispanic female to serve in the role.
During the festivities, Dr. Ortiz-Torrent, handed the president’s baton to Stephen R. Permut, MD ’72, FACP, JD, FAAFP, FACP, FACLM, her colleague at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, where Ortiz Torrent is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Science — and Permut is Professor and former Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.
“Dr. Ortiz-Torrent and Dr. Permut are medical leaders with incredible know-how. They’ve taken the helm of PCMS during one of the most challenging times for health and welfare in the City in decades — and that’s a real confidence-builder for Philadelphia,” says Amy Goldberg, MD, FACS, the School’s Interim Dean.
With the COVID pandemic surging and peaking during her tenure as president (June 2020 - June 2021), Dr. Ortiz-Torrent faced unprecedented adversity and challenges, yet remained steadfast in her service-oriented leadership, which focused on providing essential information regarding COVID and vaccines, addressing public health issues, and raising awareness of the social determinants of health — including racism, which adversely affects the underrepresented.
“Never has there been such a time that the differences in healthcare outcomes between ethnic groups has been so noticeable than during this era of COVID-19,” said Dr. Ortiz-Torrent. “Because of COVID, there has been an increase in suicide rates; unsafe work conditions; psychological effects of physical isolation; economic troubles; civil unrest; and so many deaths.”
In tandem with PCMS’s partnership with the All Faiths Vaccination Campaign to achieve vaccination equity in underserved neighborhoods, Dr. Ortiz-Torrent worked with Philadelphia’s Block Captain community leaders to raise community awareness of the importance of vaccination. With COVID taking a toll on physician and care-provider mental health, she led efforts to support them in stress-management. She also led monthly online education sessions addressing Work-Life Balance; Alternative Medical Careers; Contract Review; Financial Management; Physician Use of Social Media; Cultural Competency; Preventing Burn Out – and more. She guided PCMS on a journey of hope — sharing many lessons learned throughout the pandemic.
Born in Puerto Rico, Dr. Ortiz-Torrent received her MD from Ponce School of Medicine (Ponce, Puerto Rico) and completed her residency training in Psychiatry at Temple University, where, in addition to her role as Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, she is Medical Director of the Psychosomatic Medicine Clinic and Chief of Consultation and Liaison Psychiatry.
Dr. Ortiz-Torrent is a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, a Fellow of the Academy of Consultation and Liaison Psychiatry, and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatry Association.
She is a Board member and Immediate Past President of the Society Ibero-Latin American Medical Professionals and was recently elected to the Board of the Philadelphia College of Physicians.
Before her election as PCMS President, Dr. Ortiz-Torrent served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee in the roles of Secretary and President-Elect. She also served as PCMS’s Delegate to the Pennsylvania Medical Society.
Founded in 1849, PCMS is one of the oldest County Medical Societies in the United States, representing 5,200 physicians and medical students.