The below is a post from Iowa ACP (immediate-past) Governor Scott Vogelgesang, MD.
It was fitting that Philadelphia was the location for the American College of Physicians (ACP) Internal Medicine Meeting last month. In the same city where our nation’s constitution was written, it is no small stretch to imagine that tenacity, compromise, and hope for the future may be baked right into the bricks of some of its cobblestone streets. That same spirit of promise infused ACP’s series of events over the week as the nation’s largest medical-specialty organization celebrated its successes and discoveries and strategized for both the future of our profession as well as our role in health care.
For the last four years I have served as governor of the Iowa Chapter of the ACP and this last year has been one for taking stock and handing over the reins to the very worthy W. John Yost, MD, FACP, an educational leader and talented general internist in Des Moines. This transition put me in a reflective mood understandably and I wanted to share with you my observations about ACP and Internal Medicine in general.
It will come as no surprise to many of you that internists nationally are as divided as the country itself. We all share the same goal of improving our patients’ health and lives, but there are many strong, opposing ideas about the best ways to achieve that. Resolutions that came to a vote last month in Philadelphia often passed or failed on narrow margins. Tensions over these positions or whether to even take a position at all, in areas like gun control or climate change, are just as palpable as in the popular press. Despite differing opinions and strongly held convictions, the discussions were always professional and respectful.
Furthermore, I was frequently encouraged by internists’ abilities to always bring the discussion back to that shared goal of what is best for patients, of a common language and belief in science, reproducibility, and data. And that helped us make real progress on how to respond to national trends in American health care. We face a real crisis on many fronts and because that list of fronts is long, we had to decide which to tackle first as an organization. Rising prescription drug prices, diminishing numbers of primary care providers, and a crushing administrative burden increasing the risk for physician burn-out rose to the top of our priorities.
Other topics of discussion included how to support health care access for all, the role of advanced practice providers, and the American Board of Internal Medicine’s Maintenance of Certification process. New strategies for addressing these topics were raised and in the coming weeks three new white papers will appear from ACP with recommendations on dealing with many of these issues.
While at Philadelphia, it was clear to me that there are many enthusiastic, ambitious younger colleagues who love internal medicine, who want to take care of patients, and who are ready to fight for the policies and positions that can make our work more effective and to ensure protections for our patients.
I would encourage all to get involved with ACP or a similar professional organization (especially if you are just starting out in your career) to ensure your voice is heard, to ensure we value our profession and protect our patients. There is strength in numbers.