Thank you for your vote of confidence in me when you elected me to become the 118th President of the Greater Louisville Medical Society (GLMS). I am very excited about the coming year and I promise to do my best to justify your trust. In turn, I ask not just for your membership in this Society. I need your active involvement as we work together to achieve our mission:
- Promote the science, art and profession of medicine,
- Protect the integrity of the patient-physician relationship,
- Advocate for the health and well being of the community, and
- Unite physicians regardless of practice settings to achieve these ends.
We should be proud of our Society. It has been in existence since 1892. Previous members have sustained the Society through wars and epidemics, tornadoes and floods, hospital closures, acquisitions and mergers, and various forms of health insurance, including no insurance at all. The Society has always served as a fellowship for physicians - a venue for physicians to support one another through difficult times and as a way for physicians to join together to accomplish things that individual physicians alone could not.
Today we have our own challenges. You know them well: increasing governmental regulation, electronic health record programs, decreasing reimbursement as the cost to practice rises, the pressure to see more patients - each in less time, and the ever growing complexity of medicine, to name just a few. While our challenges pale in comparison to some of those experienced by our predecessors they nevertheless have led to burnout and a disenchantment with medicine on the part of many of our colleagues. It is all too easy to be focused on these things "happening to us." With these pressures in our professional lives it is easy to forget the joy of medicine - the reasons many of us went into, and have stayed in, medicine.
When I reflect on my own career, as a medical student, a pediatric resident, a a neonatology fellow, and finally as a "real doctor," I realize I have always valued two things above all else. The first, being told I helped: the tearful mother who thanked me for saving her baby's life, the tearful mother who thanked me though I did not save her baby's life. The second is the camaraderie of my fellow physicians, the sense of belonging. Whether it was the late night student study group that got me to the middle of my class, or the post-call pizza and beer with my fatigued resident mates, there was a sense that we were in this together and that in medicine we were doing something important. I have had the same sense of belonging as I have become more involved in GLMS committees and leadership.
More than the material things with which I surround myself: the house, the car, the income and other luxuries, those two thoughts, that I help and that I belong, sustain me when I have had a difficult day. It is the looking outward, the focus on others, not the inward focus on self, which fulfills me.
Our identity as "physician" plays out on several levels. First and foremost is the everyday relationship we have with our patient. If you are doing this well your patient identifies you as "my doctor" and may praise you when speaking to their friends. This is your "bedside identity." Some of us may also have a "national identity" by being a physician active in the American Medical Association (AMA) or in our specialty society. I am a pediatrician, a neonatologist and a member of the AMA. When I go to national meetings I am identified for my abilities in these areas.
But I propose that a powerful and effective identity, and the most needed today, is your "community identity, " as an individual and collectively as physicians.
Historically, physicians, individually and collectively, have been leaders in our community. This requires more than waiting for the patient to bring her illness to your doorstep. It is about taking health to the community: promoting immunizations, clean water, clean air, nutrition and healthy lifestyles; speaking out against poverty, healthcare disparities and injustice; standing up to political, economic and social forces that may not serve our citizens well; supporting other health oriented organizations in our community with your membership on their boards and your willingness to speak publicly to educate our citizens, and improve our population's health. It is about helping.
And so, in the coming year I will call upon you, sometimes quite directly, to belong and to help. I will ask you to become involved in our community through your membership in our Greater Louisville Medical Society. Membership is more than the "mug book," more than the discounted Common Applications Program (CAPS). As you get more involved I hope you will proudly say, "I am a member of the Greater Louisville Medical Society." In doing so, you are promoting our community identity and promoting the science, art and profession of medicine. In doing so, I am confident that you will realize again the joy of medicine.
Let's get started!