Spring 2017 Issue
By Joe Mason, MD, MSW, DFAPA
Joe Mason, MD
It is my honor and privilege to take over from Susan Waller as the PSV President for the next year. Susie did an outstanding job of keeping us all engaged throughout the past year and performed her duties admirably, so gives me an excellent role model for the coming year.
The Spring Meeting in Richmond last weekend was really outstanding and I want to give those of you who missed it a recap. We had our usual Board meeting Friday afternoon and I particularly want to thank all three of our assembly reps – Adam Kaul, Varun Choudhary, and John Shemo – for coming to the meeting and contributing as they always do. They left immediately after to represent us at the APA assembly, which met in Atlanta the next day. Unfortunately, we planned our meeting before the assembly meeting was announced, so it was unavoidable, but I wanted to recognize them for the dedication they show to PSV.
The reception was a very nice gathering and included Betsy Carr, Richmond area Delegate, and Creigh Deeds, Senator from District 25, who was one of our featured speakers. The Sunovion-sponsored talk after the reception was about bipolar disorder and was given by my good friend, David Scheiderer, who is always illuminating and entertaining.
The program "The Economics of Health Care" on Saturday was led by my childhood friend, Dr. Robert Grayboyes, a renowned healthcare economist from the Mercatus Center at George Mason, who gave a fascinating talk on the innovation that has occurred in the last 25 years and what could be possible in the next 25 years. The stories he presented to illustrate his points were compelling. His message was we are easily misled into protecting our turf, or fortress, and perhaps resistant to the frontier that can advance our profession. We need to get out of the way and let progress happen.
Next was one of the most inspiring talks I've heard in a long time by Senator Creigh Deeds. His ability to channel his energy from personal tragedy into actionable legislative and policy changes (that have already helped many of our citizens) is one of the finest examples you will ever see. Senator Deeds is a person who actively demonstrates the character traits that we all would hope to engender in ourselves and others. He is a truly fine man and will simply not allow himself to become pessimistic. His ability to articulate this is amazing and the entire room was moved by his talk.
Though this was a tough act to follow, Virginia Brooks gave an excellent overview of the many changes in Medicare reimbursement and integration of care in the federal system. It is very complicated material which she condensed nicely and served as an interesting counterpoint to the prior talk. She discussed the many ways that government regulations can make our lives difficult. Her group is adept at assisting providers in navigating these new processes and their help is free.
The lunch break was highlighted by honors given to two of our most distinguished members. John Urbach was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his lengthy service to VCU/MCV and to hundreds (perhaps thousands) of residents and students over the years. John served as residency training director for 28 years, which is more than three times the average tenure nationally. As one of his former advisees as a student at MCV in the late 80s, I can tell you that his guidance and support was a major factor in my going into psychiatry. Susie Waller is assuming the reins and though she has big shoes to fill, she has benefitted from observing and learning from John. I have no doubt that she will serve with similar distinction. She says that no one is likely to break his record for years of service and I'm sure she's right. Next was Kenneth Kendler, who was recognized as Educator of the Year, an honor we could probably bestow upon him in any given year. Ken has been the most respected, and surely the most prolific, researcher in the history of genetics. He has worked closely with many international scholars and the enormous data banks of several Scandinavian countries to produce greater understanding of the role of genes in both mental and physical illnesses. His ability to translate this research into digestible and understandable information is outstanding. One would not think that this type of data could actually be enjoyable to hear about, but if you've ever had the pleasure of hearing him present, you know how well-deserved this honor is. His humble acceptance speech was moving, especially when he related his story about his start in the field when he was able to go to Switzerland and meet with one of the men who actually had worked with Bleueler in the infancy of psychiatry. We can be grateful that we still have Ken with us, not only as a thread to our rich past but as a leader in the present. He continues to inspire, as was shown by the standing ovation he received from an appreciative audience.
The afternoon session began with an excellent talk by the APA President-Elect, Anita Everett. Anita has been an absolute workhorse over the years in many aspects of both the APA and the greater psychiatric community via her numerous roles as a clinician and teacher at Johns Hopkins. Anita is a true leader and her enthusiasm was evident in her presentation on the many ways that APA is active in our world and especially how it uses our dues money to effect the greatest impact on the profession in general and on those we serve as physicians. She also reminded us that there are many committees that any of us may become a part of and she was encouraging of all of us to participate on a national level if at all possible.
The next speaker was Dr. Norman Carroll, an esteemed professor and researcher of pharmaco-economics at VCU School of Pharmacy. His talk on the way medications are developed and how to assess the actual value of medicines in quality-of-life units rather than simply the up-front cost was eye-opening and revealing of a process with which most of us are unfamiliar. His perspective was starkly different from what we usually hear on this subject and virtually everyone was impressed and edified.
The last event of the day was a panel discussion which included Drs. Everett, Grayboyes and Carroll and was moderated masterfully by the new dean of the VCU School of Medicine, Dr. Peter Buckley. He was simply marvelous in his ability to provoke insightful remarks from all of the panelists with provocative questions and was somehow able to do so without creating overt conflict. It was a harmonious discussion and those who remained to the very end were amply rewarded. Many people came up to me afterward to comment on how invigorating the program was. I think we all felt a certain synergy that I hope we will nurture and use productively in the coming months.
We have a lot of work to do and we always will. These meetings serve to inspire us and keep us from getting too pessimistic in times of crisis and consternation. I really hope that we can get even more of our members together for future meetings with the goal of enhanced collegiality. Even if you don't need the CME, please consider coming to the next meeting in Virginia Beach in October. The spirit in the room was lively throughout the conference and I think we need this in order to recharge and remind ourselves of the things that inspired us to go into this field to begin with.
In closing, I want to say a couple of things about how we can act to advance our profession and, more importantly, the care of mental illness via legislation. The battle for a fair and effective healthcare system is ongoing and the skirmishes we need to fight will continue to require persistence. Please keep your legislators apprised of your beliefs regarding the healthcare delivery system we want to have. Statewide, there were many bills affecting how we practice in the most recent general assembly and most will come up again next year. All House of Delegates seats are up for grabs in November as well as the Governor, LG and AG offices. We need to support those legislators who support us and are friendly to our causes. One way to do that is through the Psych-MD PAC, our best means of keeping abreast of what's happening and exerting influence to shape policy. Politicians do not live in our working world and need our input to do their jobs properly. Our PAC is a very small one compared to nurse practitioners, chiropractors and most other medical specialties, so please help our lobbyists do their jobs by giving them the funds to promote our agenda. Both PSV and APA can assist you in the process of reaching out to your elected officials.
CLICK HERE to contribute to PsychMD-PAC.
October 27-28, 2017
Virginia Beach Resort Hotel
& Conference Center
Virginia Beach, Virginia
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