By Melanie Stawicki Azam
Madelyn Butler, M.D., may have risen in the ranks of organized medicine, but she fondly remembers the early mentors who helped her get there.
“One of the number one mentors I had came from right here — Dr. Jerry Scheibler,” said Butler, the immediate past president of the Florida Medical Association. “He understood health care policy — he understood the marriage between medicine and politics.”
Butler, a 1990 UF College of Medicine graduate, spoke about “Women & Leadership in Organized Medicine,” at a Jan. 25 lunch meeting, hosted by the local chapters of the American Medical Association and the American Medical Women’s Association.
Interested early on in health care policy, Butler recalled going to Tallahassee as a medical student to advocate for medicine and patients.
“Being involved in student medical organizations is a tremendous training ground,” she said
Butler took office in August 2010 as president of the FMA for a one-year term. She is now an FMA delegate to the American Medical Association. The FMA is a professional association representing more than 20,000 physicians on issues of legislation and regulatory affairs, medical economics and education, public health, and ethical and legal issues.
“Knowing where health care is going is very important if you’re going to be a physician leader,” she said.
She said the FMA is important in both stopping harmful legislation and advocating for changes that would help Florida doctors.
“A lot of the policy issues I deal with are things I deal with in the exam room,” she said.
Butler also talked about being a leader in business. After working three years at other practices, she decided to form her own practice, The Woman’s Group, in 1998. It has now grown to over a dozen doctors in three locations in the Tampa area.
But it was tough at first. She was the mother of two young children and had to take out substantial loans to start her business. At first, she worked solo, until after 18 months, she was finally able to hire two more physicians.
But she said, “Anything in life worth having involves pain.”
Born in Cuba, Butler emigrated to the U.S. with her family at a young age. After earning her undergraduate and medical degrees from UF, she completed her residency at the University of South Florida. She and her husband Bill have three children.
She said there were also people who discouraged her from going into obstetrics, telling her she’d never be able to do that specialty and have a family life, but she’s glad she didn’t listen to them.
“Don’t let negative comments take you away from your passion,” Butler said.