I have said previously that Bexar County Medical Society is a great organization that has the potential to become even greater. I would like to discuss specific steps we can take to increase our effectiveness locally, at a state-wide level, and at a national level. Many of you are already involved with the Texas Medical Association. There are numerous councils and committees that benefit from input from Bexar County members. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Texas Medical Association, Dr. David Henkes, is from San Antonio and has done an outstanding job leading the governing body of the Texas Medical Association. I would encourage as many as possible to attend meetings of the Texas Medical Association and to find areas of interest. I have long thought that the most effective volunteers for any organization are those who simply enjoy it. Early in my career, I became fascinated with politics and the process of getting people elected. I attended TEXPAC meetings on a regular basis and enjoyed them immensely. Others would enjoy discussing specific legislation. Others would be interested in the socioeconomic aspect of healthcare and others involved in the public health aspect of healthcare. There is a long list of committees and special interest groups under the Texas Medical Association umbrella. This coming May, the Texas Medical Association will have its annual meeting in San Antonio at the JW Marriott. I would encourage as many as possible to attend this. There will be a gala Friday evening to benefit the Texas Medical Association Foundation. I would encourage as many people as possible to support this. The foundation has used its money in the past to accomplish great things and enhance healthcare in Texas.
My next recommendation is to join the AMA. I realize this is a controversial area. Certainly, many are still upset by the stance of supporting the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, made by the AMA several years ago. That decision deserves some in-depth discussion. The goals of the AMA and the goals of the TMA with regards to an ideal healthcare system were essentially identical. The two organizations wanted the same thing. The Affordable Care Act certainly included many things we both wanted, but also omitted things that we felt were necessary. One then has to make decisions with regards to legislative strategy. If a bill has 60% of what you want, do you support it and try to remain in the inner circle with hopes of improving it as time goes on? Do you oppose the bill entirely in hopes of having another bill in the future that would include more of your key points? The AMA made the decision to support the Affordable Care Act and to stay in the inner circle. I would add that this was a controversial decision within the AMA House of Delegates and led to the most heated debates that I had seen within the House of Delegates. The TMA felt it was better to oppose the bill and try to start over. The difference was one of legislative strategy, not one of ultimate goals. I have often had people ask me how their life is better because of the AMA. That is similar to someone asking how is my life any better by controlling my blood pressure. For the patient with high blood pressure, it relates to the horrible things that do not happen such as stroke, myocardial infarction, kidney disease, or other horrible complications of chronic hypertension. In the same way, I would state that the AMA on a regular basis prevents very bad things from happening to our healthcare system. It is oftentimes done quietly with little fanfare. If I have any criticism of the AMA, it is that they do not effectively inform membership of the many things they have done or prevented from happening. The fundamental question is: Are physicians better off having one strong voice in Washington that is recognized as representing physicians as a whole or are we better represented by 30 or 40 different specialty groups with different messages speaking to the same elected officials? I have always felt that one strong voice is the most effective approach to take. I encourage all members of Bexar County Medical Society to join the AMA. It will cost around $400 and will increase our effectiveness politically.
During my year as president I will welcome debate and differing opinions from my own. I look forward to hearing from those of you who agree or disagree with my opinions. The wide range of perspectives within our organization is part of what makes us great.
Sheldon Gross, MD
Sheldon G. Gross, MD, is the 2018 president of the Bexar County Medical Society.