Posts Tagged LAC
Every episode of Scrubs has an overall theme summed up with a moralistic ending and a great song to drive the message home. Most, if not all, of the characters come to the same grand realization at the end. The episode “My Best Moment” J.D. (the lead character) was put in charge of telling a group of medical students what it was to be a doctor; instead, he reminisced over his greatest moments and challenged his staff to relive theirs. In many ways, the L & A conference had this feeling for me.
It’s been 8 years since I was last on Capitol Hill. I have made a few odd trips to DC for one reason or another since then, but not to the Capitol building, not with an agenda, and never with so much energy and enthusiasm. My first trip was as a congressional intern for Dr. John Cooksey. He was the representative for the 5th district of Louisiana and an Optholmologist in Monroe (my hometown…of sorts). Few people that I had ever met commanded such respect and in the community, and his ability to be both a congressman and a doctor were legendary. Dr. Cooksey was a believer that to use the title of “Doctor” you needed to actually see patients and did so 3 days a week when the congress was in session (more when it wasn’t).
This trip to D.C. and meeting up with old colleagues now serving as staffers reminded me of those good times. “My Best Moments”, however, will be the times sitting around with my new physician colleagues trading stories on our starting points, our most difficult and most rewarding patients. The talks about the best (and worst) of being a doctor. Now, the most gratifying moment of the trip was the opportunity to share all of these stories with our representatives who were eager to hear first hand stories of the true “life in the ER”. They were exceptionally receptive to our ideas.
Unfortunately for me, of Louisiana’s 3 physician representatives, I was only able to meet with 1 (don’t fret, members of the LA-ACEP chapter met with them all). Dr. Cassidy (Congressman for the 6th district) embodied the best of what I remember about Dr. Cooksey. Considering himself to be first a physician, he told us all that if he could not properly treat his patients he would not stay in D.C. He also understood the lack of input by physicians into the current health care debate and felt a calling to speak on behalf of both physicians AND patients. That through his time working on policy he could ensure better care for a greater number of patients. Admittedly, only a small portion of our time was discussing the bills being presented; he majority of our time was spent discussing the needs of our patients and our desires to serve. It gave you a sense of relief to meet a representative who cared so much.
So…the end of that episode of Scrubs. Everyone recognized the great things that had come before, and that better things could come if they were to build upon that experience. Oh, and the song at the end of the episode…”Joy to the World” by The Butties. Fitting, indeed.
Next Installment: My Take Home Message…
I have always thought that unique and life changing opportunities are available around every corner. This has been no clearer to me than yesterday afternoon when I and some colleagues from the Louisiana ACEP chapter where standing on the steps of the Russell Senate building reflecting on the talks we had with our congressmen and senators and pondering the swirling emerald green clouds above the capitol building. A storm was indeed brewing in Washington; both figuratively and literally. As many of us know, health care is very high on the current administrations agenda and the stresses of our current system have been made known to our representatives. However, what I noticed in many of the talks is that our nations leaders have no clear plans on how to best implement change. In Louisiana, we are fortunate in that we have 3 congressional members who are also MD’s and understand some of the challenges that face health care change from the provider side; BUT, the great majority of offices do not have that advantage. Many of them are seeking answers and advice from people within the system. Ladies and Gentlemen, the health care storm is coming, and it is up to us to decide if EM will caught out in the rain.
What a day on the hill! With 350 members of ACEP storming the congressional building, the chance for impact wasa real. Unlike past years where receptions may have been brief, the report from so many was positive. From liberal advocates of total health reform to conservative republicans, the audience this year was bigger than ever.
One of the most surprising interests came from none other than the minority leader, John Boehner’s office. Without so much as an appointment, we were able to drop by and meet with the deputy chief of staff for 20 minutes to discuss the merits of HR1188. This is unheard of for many in the ohio chapter. The reality is that they were interesting in the legislation but also the support that might exist for an alternative to government run universal healthcare. Unlike prior sessions, we had a receptive audience and a place to build from. Other members of the minority party as well as the majority also expressed a growing interesting in the ACEP message.
This leads to the big question, are the Republicans shopping for their healthcare reform alternative? Might the emergency physicians find a home in such a conglomerate of alternative plans? All of these questions still remain to be seen. The reality though is that this was one of the most successful visits to the hill in years. With continued grassroots movements from members like you, there is a real chance that our legislation may find the light of day in congress either as a stand alone, part of medicare SGR reform, or a broader healthcare reform effort. All of these developments should encourage the average physicians to continue the fight. Make your voice heard! Whether from home, DC, work, or play, we need you to speak up and support HR 1188.
Today is why we came here. OK, so the cherry blossoms are nice. But we came to storm the Capitol.
It is going to be a busy day. It’s going to be packed with meetings and convincing and jockeying for time with various representatives and their legislative advisers. But we can’t forget about our patients.
I’ll chat more later, as I’m sure there will be more to say after this new experience.
The first day of LAC can only be described as an overwhelming success. With record residents signed up (109), the attendance at the Resident and First Timer’s Track at LAC on Sunday April 19th was beyond capacity. Over 140 people swelled the room for the lectures by Jen Wiler, James Eadie, and myself. Media training was packed. The reception co-hosted by EMRA and YPS was overflowing.
With a record start, LAC is shaping up to be one of the best this year. Your voice will add to the strength of our position on the hill. I hope to see you there!
When Barack Obama was elected, I anticipated changes that might be coming with the unease felt by many who are naturally conservative – by which I mean opposed to change merely for the sake of change. But there are clearly some features of our society that are desperately in need of change, and the health care system is one of them.
If you ask a gathering of emergency physicians what is needed in health care system reform, you will discover a wide range of opinion. There are those who favor a single-payer system with the federal government as the payer. Others, of a libertarian bent, believe that is the worst thing we could do, and the focus should be on increasing competition and giving the public a much greater sense of individual personal responsibility for achieving and maintaining health.
The president, his Administration, and the Democratic leadership in Congress all seem to agree that health care is a right to which there should be universal access and for which there should be universal coverage – and that the time is now to move decisively toward making that view a reality. Efforts to achieve that kind of reform have been made several times over the last half century and have repeatedly failed. Many believe the forces aligned in support of such a sea change are now more formidable than ever and that the opposition is weak and scattered. But in a time of economic recession there will be resistance to new, very large, and very expensive government programs. Mustering the national social and political will to make universal access to basic health care an American reality will require inspirational leadership. Obama’s admirers and detractors alike perceive that ability in him. Let us see how he brings it to bear in addressing this pressing social problem.
The ACEP Leadership and Advocacy Conference begins on April 19 and you can bet that the 400 or so attendees, presenters and guests will be focused on the Obama administration’s efforts at reforming this country’s health care system. Of particular interest of course will be proposed changes to the way emergency care is delivered.
What will the government’s overarching goal be? Could we wind up hearing echos of the last administration’s ” Of course we have universal care. Just go to the emergency room.” Or will we begin to see real discussions on real issues such as boarding, crowding, ambulance diversion- and access to care?
In another week, hundreds of emergency physicians will be making the trek to Capitol Hill to talk to members of the house and senate. They will share stories of the real ER-the good, the bad and the ugly. And they plan to hear the same from their elected representatives, the good, bad and ugly of the reform process and what the Congress and the president are really thinking.
The Central Line will be there every step of the way, keeping you up to date on the conference and what your elected representatives are saying. Stay tuned.