The White House has declared this week Zika Provider Action Week. This call to action could not come at a better time. The Zika virus has occupied our profession and our patients nearly non-stop since news of it broke last fall. There is no doubt that Zika presents a very real concern to patients and challenge to health care providers. With the discovery of virus transmission by mosquitoes here in the United States, many of us are faced with the even more real possibility of treating patients with potential or confirmed exposure.
As ob-gyns, we are on the front lines of patients’ concerns about Zika. As each new finding is played out in the news, our patients call or come in looking for answers to help their understanding of the risk, and more often than not, assuage their fears. Unfortunately, in the instance of Zika, we too are often scrambling for knowledge, seeking elusive answers from research institutions and government agencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has done an admirable job working quickly and efficiently to assess, address, and educate the American public about the Zika outbreak.
As ACOG President, I feel a great responsibility to help our members and our specialty lead and evolve in these changing and often challenging times. To do so, we must focus on building a strong foundation upon the rigorous standards of excellence that guide us every day. One of the things I most enjoy about membership in ACOG is the community. With a central goal at hand, superior care for women and families, we come together to learn from, support, and develop alongside our peers. As we face more constant, direct, and often negative forces beyond our exam rooms, our community has another imperative: advocacy.
By cultivating the knowledge and capability of our existing and newest members, we ensure the future of our profession and the patients we serve. In part, this requires legislative and political advocacy by all of our Fellows and Junior Fellows. We must lend the diversity and depth of our community’s knowledge and expertise to help reach safe and sustainable outcomes on issues regarding women’s healthcare.
Tom Gellhaus, MD
ACOG’s 67th President
“The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” ~Jonas Salk
This past Tuesday I was awarded a great opportunity to do more: I became ACOG’s 67th President. As the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more and be empowered to make a difference in health care.
When I began my presidency, I ventured that we can make a difference in the next generation of health care through three main initiatives: global health, advocacy and new resident education models.
“The Times They Are A-changin”… That’s how I began my presidential inaugural address last year, and guess what? They are still changing! This theme underscored virtually everything we did this past year. Let me very briefly review where we are…
We began the year with a major legislative victory in that the SGR was repealed, and in its place is a more complicated program affecting physician payment, MACRA. I am finishing my year by appointing a work group of experts to better understand the new law and help translate it for our members. Stay tuned on that front.
Numerous issues arose during the year, ranging from over-the-counter contraception, home births, Planned Parenthood, TRAP laws, midwifery, Zika and many more. We have such an amazing staff in Practice and Communications…we were able to issue timely and meaningful statements about all of these issues and keep informed debate going on the national level about these and other important topics.
You asked and we listened. To better serve our Members, today marks the launch of ACOG’s Estimated Due Date Calculator (EDD Calculator). It’s an easy-to-use, straightforward, free app that is strictly based on joint recommendations from ACOG, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) for determining pregnancy due dates.
Notably, the EDD Calculator is the only app of its kind that reconciles the discrepancy in due dates between the first ultrasound and the date of the last menstrual period. It also has an assisted reproductive technology (ART) component to help health care providers with patients who undergo embryo transfer.
Earlier this month at its Annual Meeting and Exposition, the American Public Health Association (APHA) adopted 18 new policy statements ranging from contraception access to preventing prescription painkiller abuse. Although they go beyond the Pap test and pelvic exam, many of the new standards are directly related to ob-gyns as population health is closely linked to our specialty. It’s important for us to pay attention to these related issues so, I’d like to take a moment to review a few of them here. Please note that these are only some of the women’s health focused policy positions.
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.
Earlier this month I received an email announcing the ACOG application for Committee service and I got to thinking about all of the exciting and different ways members can get involved with our organization. I also started to reminisce about my start with ACOG as a member of the Connecticut Section Advisory Council, many years ago. About the same time, I attended several Congressional Leadership Conferences and began to get a feel for the value of ACOG as the only organization that really represents ob-gyns across the country, as well as the patients we serve. That was in the late 1980’s, which started me down the path of holding various ACOG leadership positions; about 10 years later, I became section chair and a member of the District I Advisory Council, ultimately leading to the District I chair role in 2006.
Every step of the way, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people from an ever-increasing geographical radius. As District I chair, I served with the other District chairs on ACOG’s Executive Board. At the national level, it works in many ways like it does at the section level. There is work to do, and if you want to be involved, you raise your hand and volunteer. ACOG has been a great way to give something back to the specialty that I love and the profession that I chose as my life’s work. So I continued to volunteer, worked on various committees, task forces and work groups from time to time, and became more involved than ever. I had the honor of being chosen for the office of secretary, my first national office, and served in that role for three years, learning more about ACOG, and myself. The rest is history as they say: before I knew it, I was President!
Serving as ACOG President is indeed an honor. It is also a significant responsibility involving accountability to the 58,000 members who pay dues to our organization. We are the premier organization advocating for obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health care. As ACOG members, we are above all things dedicated to striving for and preserving our reputation of excellence, our credibility and our integrity in the pursuit of the best in women’s health care delivery.
This has been an interesting and exciting year for me to say the very least. The meetings, the travel, the interactions with other medical societies, and advocacy efforts were all expected. Yes, there have been challenges, conflicts, resolutions, and clearly, many positive accomplishments. However, I did not expect that almost every waking hour would include some activity related to ACOG.
Workforce issues in women’s healthcare continue to be a primary concern for ACOG.
A recent survey of 20,088 physicians conducted by the Physicians Foundation, a non-profit research organization, found that increasing workloads, regulatory requirements, and other changes in the healthcare system are prompting physicians to make career changes. It found that 81% of physicians described themselves as either overextended or at full capacity. Although these findings are not specific to our specialty of obstetrics and gynecology, it can be assumed that many ACOG Fellows have similar opinions.