Become active in organized medicine to impact change
If you’re like me, you’re probably frustrated by the dysfunction in our health care system.
This pandemic magnifies and brings into focus how leadership has failed to enact health care policy that serves us, our colleagues, and our patients — particularly those who are most vulnerable.
It’s disheartening and depressing to think about the massive financial expenditure on U.S. health care and how large the gaps and failures are. It’s hard to know what to do with all of that frustration and rage.
We live in a world of spin and clickbait, and it’s tempting to think that posting, sharing, or signing an online petition is a means of action. Unfortunately, social media posts don’t really accomplish much aside from soothing our bruised souls.
So, what can we do? Well, think about where policy is created and by whom. Most policies that affect your daily practice come from Washington, D.C., and your respective state capitols. Legislation controls your reimbursement, insurance oversight, and access to care.
Short of running for office (which I think women physicians should do, too), the best way you can influence legislation is through grassroots efforts and lobbying. And unless you’re willing to quit your practice and start a grassroots movement, the most effective lobbying comes from state and national organized medicine.
You may argue that your employer and/or your specialty society hire lobbyists on your behalf; you would be partially right. Your employer’s lobbyist’s main concern is providing for their health system, that is, their reimbursement, tax liability, and ability to expand their market. Their concerns may overlap with yours, but not always.
Similarly, your specialty society’s concerns are to protect the interests of your specialty, not your colleagues in other specialties or in other health professions. And most specialty societies have a strong national, but not a statewide, presence. Many laws that affect your daily practice are local, not federal.
The only organizations that provide comprehensive policies and lobbying for all specialties at the state and national levels are your state medical societies and the American Medical Association (AMA). You might view your state medical society, as an old boys’ club. In many cases it is.
But the truth is that many, if not most, state medical societies are losing membership and therefore are ripe for new members like women physicians. Similarly, you may believe the AMA doesn’t represent your views. However, it will never represent your views if you don’t make them heard. The AMA functions as a democracy, a real opportunity for direct involvement and advocacy to make your unique positions heard.
These institutions of organized medicine are our best hope to amplify our voices. If we don’t like what they’re doing, then we need to change them from within.
Dr. Tynus is a primary care physician with Northwestern Medical Group and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine. She is a leader in academic and organized medicine.
She's had a long career in academic medicine, leading a successful transitional year residency program for 14 years and earning Gold and Silver Apple teaching awards at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, IL. Dr. Tynus serves on the ACGME Transitional Year Review Committee since 2017 and is former co-chair of the Council of Transitional Year Program directors. She wrote board exam questions as a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine Test Writing Committee from 2010 to 2018.
Active in organized medicine, Dr. Tynus is Past President of both the Illinois State Medical Society and Chicago Medical Society. She is an alternate delegate to the AMA’s House of Delegates and is on the AMA’s Speaker’s Panel for Practice Transformation and the STEPS ForwardTM Program. She is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and has served as chair of the Education Committee for the ACP's Northern Illinois Chapter.
She is married, has two children, five step-children, two dogs, a cockatoo and a guinea pig. She appeared monthly on the Patti Vasquez show on WGN radio 720AM for Wellness Wednesdays from 2017 to 2019.