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DECEMBER NEWSLETTER: Physicians in Action in Fall, 2011


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This is an expanded version of the "Physicians in Action" from our December Newsletter.

DFA members take our mission to the public!  Here are just some of the activities that doctors and medical students have been doing across the country this fall.  Do you have updates to share for our next edition? Contact us.

Dr. Joel Weddington, CA, gave a public comment on the Essential Health Benefits package in November in San Francisco. He described one of the biggest contemporary cost issues, namely our day-to-day practice of medicine with over-utilization and distorted billing procedures. Dr. Weddington has remained busy with several recent talks in the Bay Area and numerous meetings with local organizations and stakeholders.

Drs. Lisa Plymate, WA, and Lisha Barre, CO, also a attended and spoke at their respective town halls with HHS officials on the essential health benefits package.  Lisa Plymate also published a Letter to the Editor pushing back on the idea that federal health reform is not a key issue for the next governor of Washington.

Drs. Suzie Prabhakaran and Mona Mangat, FL, gave presentations about the ACA to diverse audiences in early November. The important work of educating the public, and our colleagues, continues every day! Suzie also took on the role of Deputy State Director.  Our Florida team was also influential in delivering a petition with over 200 physician signatures to Florida State Representative Rick Kriseman, who then filed a repeal of the Florida law banning physicians from asking about gun ownership.  Mona's remarks at the press conference were quoted in multiple press outlets here and here.   Mona and Linda Burke-Galloway wrote a letter about it and just got published in JAMA.

Dr. Maggie Kozel, RI, gave a presentation at Newport Hospital, RI, titled “Doctor’s Stories: Using Narrative to Shape Health Care Reform,” which was focused on encouraging doctors to add their voices to the ongoing debate.

Medical students Meghana Desale and Brian Waldersen of Johns Hopkins University organized an update on health care reform featuring Congressman John Sarbanes, and Georgetown students Liz Oler and Kate Prather began a monthly lecture series for their local chapter of DFA. Keep up the great work!

Dr. Chris Lillis, VA, was invited to speak to the editorial board of his local paper, the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. He was asked to write a feature piece entitled “Hippocratic Oath: Is law for good of patients?" He was also quoted by the Augusta Free Press regarding the Appeals Court decision in Virginia that upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Drs. Nilesh Kalyanaraman (DC), Ali Khan (CT), and Raag Airan (MD) spearheaded a membership survey in October asking DFA members about nine health care proposals in the White House recommendations for the Super Committee.   This is the first time we are aware of a physician organization bringing specific policy proposals directly to a grassroots membership to evaluate the impact on patients.   We had responses from 44 states and the District of Columbia.  Combining the results with an understanding of the political landscape, we translated the most significant proposals (on pharmaceutical costs and protecting the prevention fund) into broad principles and launched a letter to the editor campaign.

Three Massachusetts leaders – Drs. Umbereen Nehal, Daniel Stein, and Stephen Allsop met with Senator John Kerry's staff in November to deliver a petition from Massachusetts members and talk about way to control cost while improving care. The staff expressed a lot of interest in working with our 1,600 Massachusetts DFA members.

DFA Senior Advisor Harold Pollack (IL) continued to host our monthly Health Policy Expert Call series.  These calls connect the DFA community with leading experts in health policy.  This fall, we have featured Dr. Zeke Emanuel (September call on Cost Control) and Jonathan Gruber (October call on “Health Reform from Romney to Obama), and  Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker / CNN (November call on “Health Reform and the Supreme Court”).  The December call was hosted by DFA President Vivek Murthy (MA) featuring Allen Kachalia of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (December call on “Malpractice: Intersections with Quality and Safety”).  Listen to the recordings.

Dr. Zaneb Beams (MD) started a monthly dinner discussion series:  featuring Vinny DeMarco (President of Maryland Health Care for All), Ethan Moore (CMS Office of Public Engagement) speaking about health IT, and Dr. Moin Rahman speaking about Medical Decision-Making in High Stakes Situations.

Dr. Gayathri Suresh (GA) organized a “Train the Trainer” event at Emory University in partnership with Georgians for a Healthy Future and trained 20 physicians and medical students to educate their community about health reform.  The Georgia team also gained three new leaders: Advocacy Director Dr. Courtney Maniatis, Outreach Director Dr. Bea Files McConnell, and Education Director Jeffrey Holzberg.

Dr. Alice Chen (CA) spoke at a community forum in California.  The attendees were incredulous at all the things in the ACA that they didn't know about, and they asked what was being done about the lack of information.  The answer: "That's why you're all here - so you can learn about it and spread the word!"

Dr. Don Nguyen (OH) and others worked hard on the statewide debate on the individual mandate.  Don debated Mr. Chris Littleton from the Tea Party at a forum hosted by Sinclair College.  It was covered on WHIO (the local CBS affiliate), and he was invited to repeat the debate in full on TV.  He also published an op-ed in the Dayton Daily News called, “Act’s critics need to spend a day with doctor.”

Dr. Vivek Murthy (MA) was invited to give the keynote address at the New Hampshire Public Health Association Conference on “Prevention and the ACA.”  He spoke on health reform at the Annual Albert Schweitzer Fellows for Life Conference.  He also spoke at the National Conference of the Network of Indian Professionals about physician advocacy.  He also spoke in October at the annual meeting of the New Hampshire Medical Society about physician advocacy and at the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Conference.  He also represented the organization at the 2nd in-person meeting of the Prevention Advisory Group, discussing the implementation of the National Prevention Strategy with the Surgeon General.

Drs. Linda Galloway (FL), Umbereen Nehal (MA), Zaneb Beams (MD), and Don Nguyen (OH) manned booths at both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) meetings and had a very strong response from physicians who wanted to get more active in health reform.

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