“For our patients, our specialty and our organization…”

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.

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Happy 50th Birthday, Medicaid & Medicare!

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been half of a century since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicaid, along with Medicare, into law. Even though Medicare more commonly provides coverage for a smaller fraction of the patients in a typical ob-gyn practice, it still is an example of a national program that works very well, providing coverage for more than 50 million people. Over the past 50 years, Medicaid has grown to cover more than 71 million Americans — nearly one in ten women relies on Medicaid for health coverage which includes family planning, screening for breast and cervical cancer, and long-term services and support. In fact, Medicaid covered 45% of all U.S. births in 2010 and plays a critical role in ensuring access to pregnancy-related care. Without Medicaid, many women would struggle to access or be unable to afford the care we provide.

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Get More from Your ACOG Membership

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!

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For the Times They Are A-Changin’

Come gather ’round people…  

…If your time to you’s worth savin’  

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone  

For the times they are a-changin’ ~Bob Dylan

I began my ACOG Presidency this past Wednesday by reciting some of Bob Dylan’s famous verse from the 1960’s. It rings true today, especially in medicine and our specialty as obstetrician-gynecologists.

As the times change I thank our now past-president, Dr. John Jennings, for his leadership and friendship during this past year. With the counsel of his past president, Dr. Jeanne Conry, John tackled some of the very difficult issues facing our practices and our workforce. I will continue his fine work and advance it on behalf of our patients, our specialty and our organization, ACOG.

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Continuing to Help Low-Income Women Access Primary Care

Medicaid is an integral part of our health care system and a crucial source of coverage for many of our patients. More than one out of every ten adult women in the US (13%) are insured by Medicaid. However, the promise of timely access to care through the program is limited by low reimbursement rates across most of the country.

On average, Medicaid pays a doctor only 59% of what s/he would earn for treating a patient with Medicare for the same primary care services. In some states, payments lower than the cost of care force doctors to limit the number of Medicaid patients that they can see, or not accept Medicaid patients at all.

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Protecting the Patient-Physician Relationship: Why Ob-Gyns Need to Talk With Patients About Gun Safety

In order to deliver the best health care, ob-gyns must develop strong relationships with our patients. We need to discuss sensitive issues in the exam room, including sexual health, family planning, mental health, and domestic violence concerns. Keeping the line of communication unhindered allows physicians to provide the needed information to keep patients healthy.

That’s why a Florida law called the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, or the “physician gag law,” is so troubling. Continue reading

Getting Low-Income Women the Primary Care They Need

The value of the Medicaid program in ensuring care for low income women and families cannot be overstated. Nearly one out of every five woman in the US (19%) is insured by Medicaid. Yet the importance of the Medicaid program is undercut by the current biased payment system. Continue reading

Protecting Women’s Access to Birth Control

Ob-gyns know the critical role contraception plays in preventive care for women. When patients need a prescription for contraception, we expect that they will be able to fill it without hassle. Unfortunately for many women, that isn’t the case. All too often, pharmacists insert their own personal beliefs into the health care equation, refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control or emergency contraception. Continue reading

A Strong Voice for Women’s Health Research

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Marsha B. Henderson, assistant commissioner for women’s health at the FDA.

As ob-gyns, we provide health care for women every single day, sharing their stories and hearing their concerns. And as ob-gyns, we know that many diseases and treatments affect women and men differently. Perhaps no organization frames this gender difference in medicine better than the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR).

SWHR was “born” in 1989 when Dr. Florence Haseltine gathered friends and colleagues from medical and scientific organizations across the country to address the critical need for more research focused on women. Meeting at ACOG headquarters in Washington, DC, the group agreed on the need not only for more gynecological research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but also for increased research in women’s health across many specialties. This multi-disciplinary, multi-organizational effort has thrived ever since.

Last week, Drs. Hal Lawrence, Sandra Carson, Barbara Levy, and I were honored to attend the Annual SWHR Gala Dinner to celebrate the work of Marsha B. Henderson, assistant commissioner for women’s health with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ms. Henderson is the first recipient of SWHR’s Dr. Estelle Ramey Award for Women’s Health Leadership. In her key role, she coordinates FDA policy, research, and outreach efforts to protect and advance women’s health. Ms. Henderson also advocates for the participation of women in clinical trials and for sex, gender, and subpopulation analyses. Bravo to Ms. Henderson for her outstanding work!

On a related note, we are delighted that SWHR has joined ACOG and many other organizations that are urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a hearing to examine the progress made by NIH and the FDA on including more women and minorities in medical research. We will keep you updated on any developments on this front.