by Gina Alkes, MD, and Gina Martin, MD
Featured in the January/February 2016 Colorado Medicine.
2016 represents a year of tremendous change at the Colorado Medical Society. You’re already well aware of the extensive governance reforms voted in by Colorado physicians at the annual meeting in September. This issue of Colorado Medicine outlines a few of the actions CMS leaders and staff have taken to jump start these changes.
In many ways we, Gina Martin and Gina Alkes, represent The New CMS. We’re both physicians of a younger generation who are new to practice (“early career,” you might say), having completed our family medicine residencies in Grand Junction in 2014 and 2015, respectively. We are passionate and motivated to help our patients navigate the health care system and live healthier lives, and we both followed our hearts to work where we’re most needed, in rural Colorado. But our story begins before residency; we met at a meeting of the American Medical Association. Gina Martin was the lone student representing the Oregon Medical Association and Gina Alkes was part of the large Colorado medical student delegation. We fortuitously sat next to each other at the student social that first night; we were kindred spirits and best friends from the beginning.
We went to Lynn Parry’s famous wine and cheese party and Gina Martin was wholly embraced by the Colorado physician and medical student delegation. She was amazed at their overwhelming support of medical students’ involvement at the state and national level. Even then we saw CMS as an inviting, progressive, engaged society that would support us in our desire to be involved in the political arena and learn more about health care policy. For both of us the choice to pursue a residency in Colorado was solidified that evening. We wanted to be involved and stay involved, together, in the Colorado Medical Society.
By design we matched at St. Mary’s Family Medicine Residency Program and immediately connected with our local component, the Mesa County Medical Society. This allowed us to become involved in another progressive medical community and we were actively involved as executive board members throughout our residencies. Gina Martin served as president during her third year.
Now as full-scope rural family physicians we recognize even more so the importance of being a part of the Colorado Medical Society. The constant change of health care reform does not make it easy to do our jobs. Complaints about the drags of the system are common; however we still don’t see the participation in organized medicine in the numbers that were common in the days of our predecessors. We need more physicians to be engaged in affecting change within the health care system.
Physicians are extremely powerful when dedicated and motivated but in the current state have given the impression of being passive by not becoming more directly involved in the policy-making process. Through the recent CMS governance reform we all have an opportunity to help shape the new system that’s coming into play because the vote is now at the individual level. Additionally, The New CMS provides new and novel ways to become more active in policy from the ground up: from the public policy course that is being designed to the virtual policy forum and Medical Society Management Series, there are so many exciting ways to become involved. As doctors our No. 1 priority is our patients, but we need to make sure that they’re protected as new regulations come through and that we, as physicians, are protecting our profession and livelihood.
The hardest thing for physicians right now is the pull in every direction to do more and be more involved. Our workload goes up and up as we see more patients and deal with administration, insurance contracts, the business of medicine, etc. On top of that, local, state and national organizations that we care about need volunteers, too. We urge you to find your limits and make sure your valuable time isn’t stretched too thin, but at the same time please push to find small ways to be involved so that we can unify as a group of physicians, make our voices heard and take back the power of what we want to do as physicians – take care of individuals and make our community a healthier place.
We are committed to help shape the changes that are happening in the health care system for the better. The New CMS will get the grassroots engaged to help us accomplish this; we invite you to be a part of the process.