by Debra Parsons, MD, FACP, President, Colorado Medical Society
Featured in the May-June 2019 Colorado Medicine Colorado Medicine.
Now that the 2019 Colorado General Assembly has concluded, I am able to take a step back, breathe and contemplate the incredible things we accomplished this session. The Colorado Medical Society amplified the voice of all physician members in Colorado, and we would not have accomplished this without your participation in Central Line and surveys.
Starting back in February, I was honored to represent Colorado at the American Medical Association’s National Advocacy Conference. As I set out with my CMS colleagues to visit our federal legislators I pondered: “What is my role in engaging the political process to lead positive change in health care policy for the sake of our patients and our profession? How is this best accomplished? Why do this?” The AMA prepped physicians on four major federal issues – gun safety, opioids, surprise billing, and transparency and competitiveness in drug pricing – and we took our message to Capitol Hill for engaging Hill visits.
During the week in Washington, I recalled the proclamation by our CMS CEO, Alfred Gilchrist, that “politics is the process that drives policy.” I realized that our role as physician leaders is to broaden our responsibility to our patients, communities and our profession beyond our clinical role and engage in the political process. I learned that we do this best when we show up respectfully, professionally and with a unified voice; and demonstrate that we do this because we deeply care. When we engage our heart and soul in a personal and rewarding way, we are empowered to act and there is no stopping us.
As the Colorado legislative session kicked into gear, I joined company with physicians who are not experts in providing testimony but who are experts on the health care issues important to our profession and in the interests of our communities. My first testimony was in support of HB19-1083, the Athletic Trainer bill, concerning a reclassification of the regulation of athletic trainers from registration to licensure. Athletic trainers are often the first-responders for athletes and, as a former member of the Colorado State University’s collegiate women’s swim team, I know firsthand the importance of athletic trainers in the life of an athlete. With this testimony, I learned that involvement in the legislative process is an exciting and rewarding experience that connects our profession to our community.
The legislative session is a fast-paced environment where a great deal of information is condensed into a short period of time. I learned that meeting with legislators and giving testimony are two of the most effective ways to educate our policymakers about the impact, either positive or negative, that proposed legislation or legislative change might have on our profession and our patients.
As I reflect on the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly, I deeply appreciate that it is critically important for medicine’s unified voice to be heard on those laws that affect day-to-day medical practice, improve patient care, support rewarding medical careers and improve the overall health of our communities.
I recall the wonderful book from my friend and colleague Jack Cochran, MD, “Healer, Leader, Partner: Optimizing Physician Leadership to Transform Healthcare,” in which he writes, “When physicians aggregate around the needs of patients to create and improve a system that prioritizes issues like clinical quality, efficiency, affordability and safety, there develops a unified voice worthy of an audience.” … “It’s our time, it’s our turn and patients need us.”
The CMS physicians made good on this directive by standing up and opting in to lead. We showed up, shared personal stories, fought hard for our patients and our profession, and built relationships and trust with our legislators. For this I am deeply proud.