American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Convocation speech
Dr. Fryhofer highlights College’s advocacy efforts

From the May 2001 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright 2001 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

Atlanta—During Convocation Ceremony at Annual Session, outgoing College President Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MACP, spotlighted public policy issues the College has worked on during the past year.

Dr. Fryhofer congratulated the 385 newly inducted College Fellows and pointed to Convocation as one of the College’s rich traditions. She noted the symbolism of the academic regalia such as the length of the hoods and their green color, which signify herbs (humanity’s first medicines). During the ceremony, the College also awarded Masterships to 44 internists, including Dr. Fryhofer, and presented 15 awards.

At the top of Dr. Fryhofer’s list of achievements was the Decision 2000 campaign, which the College created to increase public awareness of the health consequences of people who lack insurance. That campaign helped educate tens of millions of Americans, Dr. Fryhofer said, and focused attention on the issue of access during last year’s Congressional and presidential campaigns.

The College will continue to build upon those election-year advances, Dr. Fryhofer said, because access remains a core advocacy concern for ACP-ASIM. “People from around the globe seek medical care at our facilities,” she pointed out. “Yet many Americans can’t afford even the most basic medical care.”

Dr. Fryhofer also highlighted the College’s continued commitment to correcting the problems of Americans who have medical coverage but are nonetheless “underinsured.” She said that the College has worked to rectify “a flawed managed care delivery system that harms our patients through denials, limitations and physician incentives designed to decrease care.”

Insurers should be legally accountable if they interfere in the delivery of care, she continued. She touted the College’s support of national patient protection legislation as a crucial step to safeguard physician-patient relationships.

Dr. Fryhofer also cited the ongoing Doctors for Adults public awareness campaign, which the College expanded this year to focus on women’s health. She also pointed to the College’s efforts to increase immunization rates through the Adult Immunization Initiative.

“Pneumonia and influenza together are the fifth leading cause of death for America’s seniors,” Dr. Fryhofer explained. “Yet immunization rates in seniors over age 65 are only 63% for the flu shot and 43% for the pneumonia shot—far below where they should be.” She urged physicians to support the initiative by immunizing more patients.

Additionally, she pointed to the College’s ongoing efforts to increase patient safety, noting that “the focus must be on reform of the system, not the punishment of individuals.”

Dr. Fryhofer also spotlighted the College’s efforts to address a common clinical problem: inappropriate antibiotic use, which has led to emerging antibiotic resistance. She noted that 75% of the antibiotics prescribed each year were for respiratory tract infections, most of which are caused by viruses for which antibiotics are ineffective.

“The problem of overprescribing and inappropriate use of antibiotics is of our own making,” she said. “Unless this situation is corrected, an even worse one is on the horizon.”

Dr. Fryhofer also asserted that the College’s own “vital signs” as a diverse professional organization are strong: Women now comprise 21% of College membership, while 25% of the evening’s newly inducted Fellows were international medical graduates.

She concluded by urging new Fellows and attending College members to continue to make time for themselves and their families, even in the rush of patient volume and business challenges.

“Don’t lose touch with your own humanity,” Dr. Fryhofer said. “It is that very humanity that provides the most important connection to your patients.”

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