by David Markenson, MD, MBA, President, Colorado Medical Society

Pivotal events of 2020 have challenged Colorado physicians to examine our systems of care, shift to adapt our practices to continue caring for patients, and consider further reforms. As always is the case, the physicians of Colorado have risen to the challenge and shown that physicians are trusted leaders in health care, strong advocates for their patients and a key component of our public health system. In addition, while also tested by the challenges of 2020, your medical society has been there to support you, be your voice on critical issues and facilitate a unified House of Medicine.

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the strength and expertise physicians bring, and the hope for the future are well conceptualized in this reflection by CMS Board of Directors member Leto Quarles, MD, a family physician in Boulder: “The pandemic hit me and my patients hard. I quickly transitioned my primary care practice to mostly virtual care: four days a week trying to teach folks how to take care of their chronic health conditions so they can continue to function and stave off catastrophic complications and premature death, and doing my best to address the anxieties of a traumatized, worried, frightened, mourning population through uncertain times. Because much of this work is still unpaid and many people are avoiding everything medical these days, revenues are way down, complicating what was already difficult in independent primary care.”

She continued: “Looking forward, I take courage in knowing that I can’t completely know what will happen next – but as a physician, I am uniquely prepared to anticipate, adapt, act and lead during times like these. As scientists, we are trained to navigate relative risks and complexity. As healers, we are masters of resilience and providing comfort. As doctors, we are leaders in our communities. And we’re all going to have to draw on all these strengths to help bring our communities into a healthy, sustainable future.”

You have no doubt heard the term the “new normal” used to describe the seismic shift in our lives, and this term is used throughout this issue of Colorado Medicine. I invite you to explore the cover story on the recently concluded 2020 Colorado General Assembly during which lawmakers passed, at the urging of CMS, bills to support your use of telehealth, improve payment for your services, address the opioid epidemic, increase access to care for patients and bolster public health. Many of these reforms make permanent the positive changes to care delivery physicians conceived, improved and then implemented in response to COVID-19.

Other features bring forth the experiences of medical student, resident and fellow leaders and faculty as they reflect on their “new normal” in medical and graduate medical education. While it has already evolved from my years in medical school and graduate medical education, it now looks drastically different from any other physician’s training to date.

In addition to addressing many of the new norms in health care, the issues of health equity and social determinants are key issues on the minds of physicians. The physicians of Colorado and your medical society are continuing to address these issues and advocate for improvements in systems of care for our patients. Another key feature written by a well-known and respected specialty society president opens a dialogue on race, racism and long-standing health system ills, presenting a list of action steps we can all take to create positive change within ourselves, our offices and our communities.

As we voiced in a statement in early June, CMS condemns all racism and senseless acts of violence; racism is a social determinant of health. The structural racism we are witnessing nationwide undermines the health of individuals, families and communities we serve. CMS is deeply concerned with the prevalence of discriminatory and racist acts that are resulting in the unwarranted deaths and marginalization of people of color. Our members care for the physical, mental and public health consequences of those impacted by structural racism and discrimination. Individual and community health cannot thrive in the presence of disparities in health care, workforce development, housing, education and criminal justice. For these reasons, CMS has a long history of working to mitigate these health and racial impacts on our patients’ health. CMS, on behalf of our members, commits to promoting and advancing health and social equity through advocacy, public policy and education.

As the physicians of Colorado continue to lead through the challenging and ever-changing times, your medical society is here to support you, striving to unite the House of Medicine to solve problems, share resources and education, and inform government officials and state leaders. As physicians we have a role to use our heart and knowledge to advance society, to serve our patients providing accessible and high-quality care, and to educate the public. I am deeply grateful to all members of the Colorado Medical Society for standing together as a profession and stewarding meaningful change. We will keep working and I and your medical society, as always, are here to be your voice, provide resources and support you.

Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, President's Letter