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

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New College leaders to focus on access, recertification

From the June ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright 2002 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

By Jason van Steenburgh

As the College's newly elected leaders prepare to take office, they plan to focus on key areas including access to care, improving the recertification process for internists and building better relationships with other medical organizations. Here are some of their thoughts on the coming year for ACP-ASIM.

President: Dr. Walker

Incoming President Sara E. Walker, MACP, said that advocating for the College's new plans to expand health care access will be her top priority in the coming year. "I'm very excited about our plan," she said, "because it contains a timetable designed to make affordable health insurance coverage available to all Americans within seven years."

The step-by-step plan for universal access would expect Congress to adopt a resolution establishing the goal of making health insurance coverage available to all Americans. (For more information, see "College unveils new seven-year plan to expand access.") "We will build upon the strengths of programs that are already in place," she said, "in order to provide a means of dealing with the terrible problems of the uninsured."

Dr. Walker, who is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said that she hopes to help the College improve health care access in part by promoting volunteerism.

"We want to persuade internists to consider how rewarding it can be to use their invaluable experience to help patients who have nowhere else to turn," she explained. "Increasing numbers of patients have no safety net. Internists at every career stage, from medical student to maturity, can contribute a great deal."

Dr. Walker said that the College will not forget other problems that internists face, including physician fee schedule cuts. She urges all members to get involved in the College's Key Contact Program and to advocate for appropriate compensation for Medicare services. "We are concerned that slicing reimbursement will lead to reduced numbers of physicians available to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients, especially in rural and inner city locations," she noted.

Dr. Walker said she plans to work to increase the diversity of College membership, especially among Fellows, Masters and leaders. Improving membership recruitment is also on Dr. Walker's agenda.

Chair, Board of Regents: Dr. Wilson

While Cecil B. Wilson, FACP, plans to fight for the College's goal of improved access, he has two other important goals: "strengthening the house of medicine," he said, and improving the recertification process for internists.

Dr. Wilson, a solo practitioner in Winter Park, Fla., knows something about organizational dynamics from his work on the ACP-ASIM merger. He said that medical organizations need to do a better job of working together to accomplish shared goals.

"We must try to improve the way that organized medicine works together," he explained. "If the College is going to continue to be an umbrella organization, we must improve relations with internal medicine subspecialties."

To accomplish that goal, Dr. Wilson recently led a College ad hoc committee that advocated adding subspecialty representatives to the Board of Regents. He expects the plan to be implemented with the addition of new subspecialty representatives by next year's Annual Session in San Diego.

Dr. Wilson also talked about some of his plans to lead the Regents on the issue of recertification in the coming year. He said College leadership is committed to making recertification meaningful, but it will work to prevent the process from being unduly burdensome to internists.

"We expect to continue to work with the ABIM to negotiate ways to improve the process," he said. "Our members have told us the current plan of recertification is intrusive, onerous and duplicative."

Chair, Board of Governors: Dr. Dale

David C. Dale, FACP, said that improving recertification will be very much on the minds of College Governors in the coming year.

He said that to be effective, continuing education must recognize that adults have different educational needs and learn differently. He added that the recertification process must account for a huge variation in what doctors do on a daily basis.

"The only realistic way to approach continuing education is to test or evaluate how well we carry out our daily duties," he explained. "The Board of Governors and the College are very committed to finding common ground with the ABIM."

Dr. Dale said under his leadership, the Governors will also work to find shared goals with other medical organizations at the state and national level. "We need to work together to improve access and quality in medical care," he said.

Dr. Dale also wants to increase diversity in the profession, in College membership and in representation on the Board of Governors.

"We will be better served if we have greater diversity that truly represents our constituency," he said. Besides recruiting more women and minorities, he said, he would like to see physicians who represent more medical specialties and a wider range of expertise involved in ACP-ASIM.

Finally, Dr. Dale, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle and Governor for the College's Washington Chapter for the past four years, said he wants to help improve members' job satisfaction. "Many factors currently make it hard to be a good doctor," he said. "We need to emphasize the satisfaction that comes from helping others and building long-term relationships with patients."

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