Something on your mind? ACP-ASIM wants to know
From the October ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 2002 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.
By Sara Walker, MACP
Listening to the voices of its members is key to the success of any organization, and ACP-ASIM is no exception. The College thrives on internists' observations and suggestions, and it welcomes all forms of comments and feedback from College members.
In this month's column, I'd like to outline some of the ways that the College hears from members—and how it incorporates that feedback into College policy.
One-on-one conversations are an essential way that College leaders keep up to date on the realities of medical practice. The Governors, Regents and other officers who regularly attend chapter meetings and Annual Session are always eager to talk to internists. We take all comments from internists, whether given in person or during open-microphone sessions, very seriously.
As I write this column, I'm preparing to go to Michigan and attend the chapter meeting in Traverse City. The College's Governor for the Michigan Chapter will host hundreds of medical students, residents and internists from all over the state.
I will be attending as the College Representative. At every chapter meeting, you'll find a College Representative who is an officer, past officer or member of the Board of Regents.
College Representatives are there to update members about ACP-ASIM activities and services. But even more importantly, we want to listen to members express their concerns. Frank, freewheeling discussions usually develop at chapter meetings, giving Governors and College Representatives a golden opportunity to hear what members really think.
How College leaders respond
College Governors and Representatives regularly bring members' views to the organization's leadership. Governors, for example, always discuss internists' ideas during Board of Governors meetings.
Governors also take members' concerns and help shape College policy by drafting resolutions calling for ACP-ASIM to take action. The beauty of the College's resolutions system is that it allows individuals to make real contributions to College policy.
The power of members' views was apparent during the recent debate on the mandatory recertification process. During past years, Governors and chapters have brought forth numerous resolutions on recertification to College headquarters on behalf of their chapters. These resolutions—and member viewpoints—were then discussed before a reference committee of the Board of Governors.
Once the Governors approve a resolution, it is forwarded to the Board of Regents. In this case, the final version approved by the Board of Regents in April 2002 served as a template to shape College positions on recertification.
It's important to note that the success of a resolution does not depend on the size of the chapter that submits it. In 2002, for example, the 184-member Idaho chapter submitted a resolution calling for simplification of the recertification process in internal medicine. That principle remained a key goal in our talks with the American Board of Internal Medicine.
The power of speaking up
In many cases, member feedback has had a profound influence on College activities. When internists stand up at a chapter meeting and speak their mind about the realities of academic and clinical medicine, they often set in motion a chain of events that takes their concerns to the highest levels of College leadership.
For example, when Gary M. Smith FACP, an internist in Alexandria, La., attended the combined Mississippi-Louisiana chapter meeting last March, he educated the College about the problems local doctors were having with flu vaccine. Addressing a town hall meeting, Dr. Smith pointed out that some internists in his town couldn't get any vaccine at all, while plenty of flu vaccine seemed to be available to large chain supermarkets and discount stores.
His comments became part of the College Representative report that goes to College headquarters after every chapter meeting. Those vaccine distribution problems were brought to the attention of key ACP-ASIM officers and staff, including the Executive Vice President and the Board of Regents. (Members' comments at chapter meetings get reported to the Regents four times a year.)
Dr. Smith's statements, as well as thoughtful letters to ACP-ASIM Observer from internists such as Philip R. Alper, FACP, and Karen S. Kolba, ACP-ASIM Member, gave impetus to the ongoing ACP-ASIM campaign to improve vaccine availability. (Their letters are available online.)
The Washington Office followed up with a letter to Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), as well as statements to the National Vaccine Advisory Committee and support for a coalition letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that called for adequate reimbursement for flu immunization.
When I visit senators and congressional representatives, I like to quote Drs. Smith, Alper and Kolba. Anecdotes from practicing physicians are powerful weapons that College leaders use over and over. They help us advocate for fairer distribution systems, better Medicare reimbursement and—in a larger sense—adequate access to the medical care that literally saves lives.
As internists, we all experience frustrations and problems, and we are concerned about the future of medicine. Each of us can help make that future better if we speak up.
To start, contact your Governor about issues that can be addressed through chapter resolutions. Members should by all means attend their annual chapter meetings and pass their ideas and concerns on to the College Representative. That feedback is always sent to the highest levels of leadership, ensuring that members have plenty of opportunities to help shape the future of the College.
Come forward, stand up and speak your mind. College leaders need to hear from you!
And feel free to get in touch with me personally. E-mail your ideas and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll look forward to hearing from you.
The College wants members to get in touch with their local elected leaders. To identify and contact your Governor, and to talk about upcoming resolutions, see the list of College Governors on ACP-ASIM Online.
You can also preview new resolutions for the Board of Governors meetings. About a month before each Governors meeting, the resolutions to be discussed are put on the home page of ACP-ASIM Online under the Membership section. (The Governors meetings take place in September and during the week of Annual Session.)
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