Winter 2020 Issue
Stephen Cunningham, MD
I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Fall 2020 PSV conference in Roanoke VA, (our first hybrid conference), which allowed for us to safely interact with speakers, colleagues and sponsors, both in person and remotely. We were very happy to have had so many medical students and residents represented from all the Virginia medical and osteopathic schools. The positive feedback from the sponsors and attendees ensured that PSV will likely continue with this model for the future.
As I write this message, the emotional upheaval surrounding the November elections and COVID-19 continues to consume our lives. Civil unrest, economic uncertainties, and tribal divisions persist unabated, which result in the feeling that not only is our individual sense of resilience being challenged, but so too is the mettle of our democratic institutions. As physicians in psychiatry, we have faced many challenges recently as we continue to provide mental health care for society’s most vulnerable citizens. Our patients, like us, are trying to make sense of a chaotic world. We must remain both empathic and encouraging to our patients, and advocate for them. We must remain engaged and connected to each other in the field of psychiatry and to our colleagues in all areas of medicine. It is vital that we remain involved in the PSV and APA, as well as our allied organizations, such as MSV and AMA. It is also important that we continue to financially support our PSV advocacy group, as they provide us with a political voice to draw attention to issues important to our patients and our profession, including equal access for patients to psychiatric care and equity of coverage for psychiatric treatment.
Past PSV President, Dr. Susan Waller, wrote previously about the political upheaval of 2016: Regardless of your party affiliation, “we share the norms of a selfless community of healers in mental health”. We must realize that people of all political beliefs, of all racial ethnicities, of any sexual orientation, of any religious affiliation (or no religious affiliation at all) are ALL wrestling with considerable amounts of angst about our health, about our country and about our world. When our patients’ lives are being affected by injustice, we must advocate for them. It is paramount that we actively participate in the raising of our own consciousness. The APA’s self-examination regarding its own implicit and explicit biases and history of structural racism is an example of this. APA President Dr. Jeffrey Geller’s articles on these topics are disturbing and illuminating. As a healing profession, we must also speak out when policies are proposed by our government that repeat our past mistakes and that can harm our patients and their families. Recently, attempts have been made by our current government to eliminate sensitivity training for corporations and agencies. As a profession, we must speak out in unison to oppose this. The benefits of expanded healthcare for our patients and their families via the Affordable Care Act is being jeopardized by our government. As a profession, we must speak out in unison to oppose this. In Washington DC, police were encouraged by our government to “not hold back” violence on protesters. As a profession, we must speak out in absolute unison to oppose this. Our profession, our patients and our country deserve better.
February 19-20, 2021
Hilton Downtown Richmond
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