by Sami Diab, MD, President, Colorado Medical Society
Featured in the Feb-Apr 2021 Colorado Medicine Colorado Medicine.
I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy.
I woke and I saw that life is all service.
I served and I saw that service is joy.
- Khalil Jibran
Remember when being a physician was fun, a manifestation of joy?
Your last name doesn’t have to be Fauci, for you to have recognized a not-so-subtle change in healthcare since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. For most of us, the manifold forces of the pandemic have suffocated the joy in the practice of medicine.
This diminished joy has weighed on me as I reflect on the past four months as the president of the Colorado Medical Society and on the last 12 months since the pandemic started. I feel that the absence of joy is, in no small part, the result of individual physicians feeling powerless in the face of huge pandemic, poor preparation, and not having our voices heard. Let us look at the vaccine distribution and the frustration expressed by many of us on Basecamp as an example of how physicians have less influence on health care than ever. The question I ask myself often is: Can we, physicians, reclaim our central role in shaping our health care system and protect the physician-patient relationship? I truly believe the answer is yes if we work together as physicians. Our voice needs to be united and prolific.
Incredible things, both good and bad, can happen when people unite around a common cause. Take for example the recent case of small retail investors taking on the hedge fund barons of Wall Street through stocks like Game Stop. What’s that you say? GameStop stock price has already started dropping. To focus on that is to miss the point of the power of unity and focus. Don’t forget, people took notice, institutions took notice, Congress took notice and hearings are scheduled.
Physicians often find themselves in the role of the little guy, the retail investor, struggling to be heard against the roar of the big guys – hospital systems, the insurance lobby, and federal and state agencies and health departments.
The fragility of our healthcare systems and supply chains, our vulnerability to new viruses and our need for competent leadership have all highlighted the necessity of physicians being at the center of healthcare decisions and policy.
Being a member of the Colorado Medical Society (CMS) allows your voice not only to be heard, but to be amplified. I realize times are difficult and some of you may have decided to forego renewing your CMS membership. I understand. However, noble and rewarding as service is, your motivation in joining CMS does not have to be wholly altruistic. When you choose to join CMS, you are choosing to have a voice and a seat at the table. And the more members that CMS has means a louder voice and a bigger table. In the context of enlightened self-interest, having this voice gives you an opportunity to influence and shape the factors that impact your working life.
Now, more than ever, we as physicians have a duty and a calling to care for not just our patients but also for our profession.
Dissent is okay. We will not always agree – that’s guaranteed. But choosing to unite as members of the most influential physician-led organization in Colorado, means the problems we face today will be solved by physicians. As Ted Epperly MD, past board chair and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, once said, “All of us are smarter than any [one] of us.” ■