AMA president on physician perseverance and public service

Michael Winters , Contributing News Writer

Physicians live in a world of contradictions, AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, told physicians during his address at the 2016 AMA Annual Meeting. It’s a profession of rewards and privilege amid the toll of frustration and burnout, borne of administrative hassles and bureaucratic overreach. The challenge is to persevere and lead the way for others, he said.

“In my travels this year I have shared my belief that it is our opportunity, our obligation and our great privilege as leaders to recognize the challenges but to not allow ourselves to be consumed by them,” Dr. Stack said.

Despite the challenges, he said, countless physicians cherish their calling and would never choose another.

“Engaging with these dedicated professionals—people who revel in what they do for patients and remind me why the work of the AMA is so important—has been the best part of my year,” he said.

Looking back over the year, Dr. Stack outlined the valuable work of the association, including:

  • Advocating an end to Meaningful Use as we know it, and working to untangle the convoluted payment systems that add to dissatisfaction among physicians
  • Changing federal policies governing electronic health records (EHR) to better reflect the realities of medical practice
  • Continuing to work in Washington to secure improvements in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act to ensure physicians can succeed in the new payment options and make informed decisions for their practices
  • Helping shape the national conversation around the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose through the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse
  • Maintaining physician leadership training programs to encourage leadership in hospitals, clinics and communities
  • Tackling the risk of costly chronic diseases, such as prediabetes and high blood pressure, which has included a national public service campaign online, on TV and in print
  • Fighting mergers of health insurance giants that threaten to reduce competition, manipulate physician practice and drive up costs for patients
  • Reimagining medical education by bringing together 32 medical schools to create the medical school of the future

Dr. Stack reminded his colleagues that sacrifice, perseverance and public service are alive and well, and pointed to a recent public health crisis in Michigan.

Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, faced dismissive experts, skeptical colleagues, even personal attacks when she sounded the alarm in late 2014 over lead contamination in the water in Flint, Dr. Stack said. Yet her perseverance exposed a public health scandal.

“Think about what it took Dr. Mona—as she is more widely known—to persevere under those circumstances,” he said.

He told his colleagues that their challenge will be to persevere despite bureaucrats, administrators and “armchair quarterbacks,” and make sure “the sacred bond between patient and physician endures.”

“With our unwavering commitment to this noble cause, we can—we will—create a future where physicians and patients thrive and where the doctors of tomorrow have the support and training they need to meet any challenge,” he said.