Dan Morhaim, MD
SPS liaison from Maryland
- Member, Maryland House of Delegates (1995-2019)
- Faculty, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (2002-2018)
- Author, “Preparing for a Better End” (Hopkins Press)
- AMA, Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service (2011)
Location: Pikesville, Maryland
Specialty: Emergency medicine and internal medicine
Q: How did you become interested in serving in the Maryland House of Delegates?
A: As chair of emergency medicine at a large suburban hospital starting in 1981, I worked ER shifts days, nights, weekends and holidays. So much of what I was seeing in ER visits were problems that required not only medical remedies but public policy solutions. Foremost among these were all the ills that stem from addiction disorders. Other prominent areas included the lack of social support for seniors and for families, deficiencies in health care insurance, and the reluctance of Americans to engage in advance care medical planning.
While I supported various candidates and had been involved in initiating a recycling program in our county, I had never seen myself running for office. But after a redistricting cycle opened a seat in the House of Delegates, I figured this might be a way I could engage people in public policy solutions to the problems I saw in the ER. I campaigned hard and, somewhat to my surprise, I won that first election and was then re-elected to 5 more 4-year terms, serving 24 years in total.
Maryland’s legislature (like most states) is a part-time commitment. This allowed me to practice medicine except for the 3 winter months each year when I had to be in Annapolis, Maryland’s capital, for the legislative session.
Q: As a physician leader, why is physician advocacy important to you? How can physicians have a significant impact outside the practice of medicine?
A: The perspective of health care workers at all levels is vital to the work of government, and input from physicians is particularly critical. Legislators cannot be experts on more than a few subjects, and they depend on constituent involvement to educate them, especially when it comes from those who are daily interacting with a variety of community members. When there was an issue on which I was largely uninformed, I appreciated hearing from constituents with personal experience who could educate me. It’s important to be respectful when lobbying legislators, as too often physicians are pre-judged to be arrogant or impatient.
I would like to provide some advice: doctors, like other professionals, are known to show up for their own pocketbook issues, and that’s understandable. But it’s equally important to show up for the broader health policy concerns that may have little or nothing to do with reimbursement.
Q: What issues are you focusing on now and are most important to you?
There are three major public health challenges that impact everyone. We need to build awareness followed by policy and practice changes.
- The pre-eminent public health challenge–if not for us boomers, then certainly for our children and grandchildren–is the climate crisis. We can now readily see the effects of the adverse impact to our air, land, and water that have been wrought since the Industrial Revolution.
- Our country (and the world) is dealing with the overdose/opioid crisis. This situation is in large part the result of a series of failed policy decisions known as the “War on Drugs,” a war that has been lost many times over. The drug wars are responsible for 80%-90% of crime in the U.S. and contribute significantly to our nation’s border crisis.
- Advanced medical care planning. Studies show that only 40% of Americans have completed advance directives (free forms, legal in every state), and the completion rate is 20% in communities of color.
On a personal note, my wife Shelley and I (now married 48 years) enjoy family, grandkids, traveling and arts/cultural events. I do my best to stay in shape, jogging 3-8 miles several times a week, along with weight work and yoga. I run in several charity 5Ks every year, always fun and for good causes.
Have information about SPS members doing great work? Email us at [email protected].