Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reflections on 40 Years of Advocacy for Internists

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of my career in representing internal medicine doctors, first with the American Society of Internal Medicine, and then with the American College of Physicians after the ASIM-ACP merger in 1998.   My first day on the job for ASIM was January 22, 1979.

To understand how long ago it was when I started working for ASIM, in the month of January 1979:

Jimmy Carter was President. He proposed on 1/14 that Martin Luther King’s birthday become a national holiday.

The Village People's Y.M.C.A became their only UK No.1 single.

The Shah of Iran fled Iran during the cultural revolution. 1 million marched in Tehran in a show of support for the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini.

In Super Bowl XIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat Dallas Cowboys, 35-31; MVP: Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh, QB.

Tom Brady was only 17 months old.  Really.                               

The Dukes of Hazzards premiered on CBS.

The “Wiz" closed at Majestic Theater NYC after 1672 performances.

Pope John Paul II embarked on his first overseas trip.

Midnight Express, starring Jane Fonda and John Voight, won the Golden Gloves award for Best Picture.

I was 22, a few months out of college; my hair was brownish (not white), quite a bit longer, and parted in the middle; and I weighed quite a “few” pounds less than now.  Had you asked me then if I would still be advocating for internists four decades later, I’d have said you were crazy.

So how is it that I am still here 40 years later?

I work for internists—a special breed of doctor that almost without exception, has been caring, thoughtful, engaging, creative, supportive of me and others on the [ASIM, ACP] staff, and fun!  There is no better group of physicians to work with, or for, than internists.  Many of them are my friends.

I’ve had great mentors and supporters of my career, from every one of the bosses that I reported to, from Bill Ramsey (ASIM), Mark Leasure (ASIM), Joe Boyle, MD (ASIM), Alan Nelson, MD (ASIM, and ACP), Walt McDonald, MD (ACP), John Tooker, MD (ACP), John Mitas, MD (ACP), Steve Weinberger, MD (ACP), and now Darilyn Moyer, MD (ACP).  Their management styles couldn’t have been more different, yet I’ve learned so much from them, and I’m still learning.

I was able to contribute to the successful merger of ACP and ASIM in 1998, working with Alan Nelson, Mark Leasure, John Tooker, and Walt McDonald to bring together the staff from the then-ACP and then-ASIM Washington offices into a team of equals, after years of being rivals.  The result has been the most effective physician advocacy organization on the planet (IMHO).

I am privileged to work in an organization where there is mutual respect between our internist-members/leaders and their staff, recognizing that we each bring different skills to the organization. This organizational culture of staff and physicians being on the same team is rare in American medicine.

I’ve been to all 50 states on business trips, and seen the beauty and diversity of our country in ways few are able to experience.  I’ve talked to many thousands of internists in my travels, learning from them what can be done to make things better for them and their patients.

I’ve been able to write often about health care, feeding my inner journalist.

I’ve been invited to author/co-author some of ACP’s most influential policy papers, many published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, addressing topics from universal coverage to gun violence to reducing administrative burdens to improving payments for internists’ services, and many more.

I’ve had the best staff colleagues, and still do; many are among my closest friends.

And, at the top of my list, my career has allowed me to make a difference, improving health care for patients and improving the professional lives of internists.  Is there anything more defining than that for a successful career?

It’s been a great 40 years of being an advocate for internists and patients.  I plan to keep on doing it, until . . . well, I’ll know when it’s time.   But not yet, not too soon; there is still too much to accomplish and still too many good times ahead!

Thanks to all of you for your support and friendships over the past 4 decades.