When I assumed the presidency in May, I promised to work on behalf of our patients, our doctors and ACOG. Not quite halfway through a very busy year, I wanted to give you a progress report on my activities.
First, for our patients. We, as Ob-Gyns, provide care for many women who essentially see no other health care providers. For many years, we are the only regular contact many women have with the health care system, so we have a responsibility to provide more comprehensive care for our patients. This doesn’t necessarily mean treating all forms of medical problems. However, it suggests that we should screen our patients for major risk factors that will become major disease processes if we don’t intervene. For our patients, especially for those without a regular primary care provider, we should review the recommended screening tests and intervals found in the “Well Woman Care” document recently published by Dr. Jeanne Conry’s Task Force and ensure that our patients receive appropriate care and screening. If we discover a condition that we are not comfortable treating, we can and should, at the very least, effect an appropriate referral to someone who can treat the problem.
More directly, regardless of our expertise in various primary care areas, we all can address two key areas. As I outlined in my inaugural address, about 780,000 people die in the USA alone each year from the effects of obesity and smoking. These are pervasive problems in our country these days, cutting across all specialties and sub-specialties, and we need to address these issues with our patients. Of course, these are difficult discussions to have with patients, but if we don’t bring up these conversations, who will? We have begun work with two work groups, using ACOG staff and several key experts in these fields, to develop toolkits to provide our offices with scripts, posters and relevant material to address these issues with patients. We will also be providing relevant coding information so we can help you be appropriately compensated for the time and effort this will take. But if we do this, we can make an extremely positive impact in the population health arena, and do much to improve the health of our nation.
For our members, our specialty. We recognize the increasing dissatisfaction with practice across all specialties, but Ob-Gyn in particular is close to the bottom. At the same time, depression and suicide rates for medical students, residents and practicing physicians are relatively high. We have taken this on by teaming up with CREOG and the work that Dr. Mark Woodland has done there. Working with ACOG staff and related experts, we have developed and have sent out an email brief survey about wellness. Please be sure you complete it if you haven’t already done so, and from this we hope to get more information to help us tailor programs to address this very serious problem.
For ACOG, our organization. In July, at the Executive Board meeting, we began an intense Strategic Planning initiative, ACOG 2020, to build the ACOG of the future. I’ve asked all participants to think about what ACOG needs to look like in 2020, to maintain our supremacy in the field of professional associations related to women’s health, and to maintain our relevancy for our members and our patients. Everything is on the table. There are no “sacred cows.” We developed four Work Groups, each made up of several Board Members and several senior ACOG staff members, to focus on Governance, Member Needs, Fiscal Issues and Data Issues.
Each of the Work Groups has been busy all summer constructing a set of recommendations which we will pull together at the November Board meeting for further refinement and action. Not everything may be immediately implementable, but everything will be considered. Of all the things we accomplish during this year, this will have the most lasting impact on ACOG, and ultimately, that should be good for our members and our patients.
So in conclusion, I’d like to thank everyone who has been working on these projects. We have an amazing organization in ACOG and even with all the changes in the health care field, we will be even stronger and better because of all the work our Board Members and staff are doing.