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Trisha Torrey identified a need for a new role in health care. Some call it a navigator; some call it a patient advocate. Tricia is a pathfinder in the emerging field of professional health care advocacy.

When a medical crisis happens to us, to or to someone we love, we find ourselves literally in a fight for our lives with little time for preparation or negotiation. We struggle to come up to speed on a disturbing new vocabulary, a complex set of decisions with unpredictable outcomes, decisions about the costs of health care that can bankrupt a family.

Trisha Torrey realized that we need trusted advocates for health care issues just as we do for issues related to financial planning and legal issues. Health care advocates, she says, “are knowledgeable about medical issues, and health care rules and regulations; their role is to help extend the quality and the quantity of life by helping a patient and their family ask the right questions.”

Professionals in health care advocacy demonstrate a deep body of knowledge about medical conditions, treatments, protocols and resources—not as medical experts but as an experienced guide in this unwanted journey. They balance skills of empathy and objectivity to help patients understand the new world of medical information; understand the choices available; and how to approach decision making from a perspective of personal values and priorities.

Trisha Torrey wasn’t a health care provider when she began this journey- she was a patient, struggling for survival. She learned, the hard way, that knowing the right questions makes all the difference. She leveraged her skills as an educator and a marketing specialist to help establish a new professional identity not only for herself, but for hundreds of people who see people as more than patients, but as educated and knowledgeable consumers and partners in the health care process.