Lexington infectious-disease physician Ardis Hoven has been named president-elect of the American Medical Association at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago.
Hoven ran unopposed and will become the 168th president of the AMA at its 2013 meeting. She will be the third woman to hold the job.
Hoven, 67, was at the forefront of physicians battling the first wave of AIDS. The experience showed her that she had made the right choice going into infectious-disease medicine, she said.
"It encouraged me to go where other people weren't," she said. "I look back on those years now and think, that's what I went to medical school to do. I felt I was in a special place and I needed to do it correctly and I needed to do a good job ... to be a patient's advocate. I consider it an honor that I could be there at that particular point in time."
Being HIV-positive no longer is a death sentence, she said, but she still sees patients who are at risk from other factors.
"I've watched considerable change to where I can sit in the examining room and say, 'You're not going to die of your HIV disease. But if you don't quit smoking, you're going to die of your lung cancer.'"
Obesity among Kentuckians — even those who have HIV — is a chronic problem that troubles Hoven.
"Obesity is an epidemic in our country," Hoven said. "One of the big challenges we have is that these (HIV-positive) patients get overweight just like everybody else. In the HIV population, for so long these folks were skinny, they were malnourished ... and now they develop the same problems the general population does."
Dr. Michael Karpf, the University of Kentucky's executive vice president for health affairs, said Hoven's election "is a great accomplishment and acknowledgement for Dr. Hoven and for Kentucky to have someone serve in this leadership position in the nation's largest physician organization."
As AMA president, Hoven will travel between her Lexington home, the Chicago base of the AMA and the Washington AMA advocacy office.
A year from now when she is president, one of the issues that will be in the forefront, no matter what happens to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, is affordability of access to care, particularly for those with low incomes who do not receive employer-sponsored health insurance.
"Whatever the Supreme Court does, ... the AMA will be in a position to advocate for what is best to patients," Hoven said. "We have a long-standing policy of wanting to have access to care for all Americans."
Hoven was president of the Kentucky Medical Association from 1993 to 1994 and was elected to the AMA Board of Trustees in 2005. She has been a member of the AMA's Group Practice Advisory Committee, among other task forces and panels.
Hoven was born in Cincinnati and received her undergraduate degree in microbiology and her medical degree from UK, where she later received the College of Medicine's Distinguished Alumnus Award and the KMA Distinguished Service Award. Hoven completed internal medicine and infectious disease training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She is currently medical director of the Bluegrass Care Clinic, an infectious-disease and HIV/AIDS practice affiliated with the UK medical school.
Hoven is married, with one stepdaughter and two grandchildren. In her spare time, which she says is limited and often found while traveling on airplanes, she enjoys needlepoint and reading, particularly mysteries. She enjoys the puzzle aspect of a good mystery novel, she said. "They are fun things that get my brain working," she said.
Nonetheless, the beach walks that are among her other favorite activities might be few during the next two years as she gears up for and serves her year as AMA president.
"The honor here is that I've been given a large responsibility, of which I'm very aware," Hoven said. "We have the opportunity to take medicine, to take health care, to a better place."
Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.