The President’s Podium: “Physicians Really Are Different”

Dr. Dennis Dimitri 300 ppiBy Dennis Dimitri, M.D., President, Massachusetts Medical Society

Editor’s Note: On Friday, May 1, 2015, Dennis Dimitri, M.D. was installed as the 133rd president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. His inauguration address, while reflecting on personal experiences and acknowledging the help and support of those closest to him, also carried an important message for physicians, as they practice in a dramatically changing and increasingly burdensome health care system. Here are excerpts of his inauguration speech.

“There is really no other career that for most of us could have brought so much personal reward while doing so much professional good.

“We’re very privileged in the sense that our patients come to us, sharing openly all of their own difficult circumstances, be they medical, personal, social, or economic issues that created their difficulties. They look to us to help them overcome these problems, yet over and over lately, we hear about physician burnout and the loss the joy in practice.

“Yes, it can be stressful and overwhelming to be faced by our professional demands at times. Often, the healthcare delivery system seems to add more roadblocks rather than make it easier for us.

“Yet we must not lose sight of the privilege we are afforded in return for our willingness and our professional mandate to put our patients’ interests before ours. Many of us often decry the loss of some types of physician autonomy, as well as the sense of the loss of respect for the profession, yet, over and over, polls of the public indicate that they want a physician to be the provider of their health care, and that medicine remains at the top of the list of respected professions.

“So, yes, we now practice more and more often as part of a team or in an integrated system, but the unique role of physician leadership of that team and physician impact on those systems remains fundamental to our patients’ well-being.

“And as to that loss of joy in practice…. Well, recent studies of physicians indicate, not surprisingly, that what gives us the greatest satisfaction is providing good care to our patients.

“When we feel burned out by dealing with our EMR’s, the prior authorization forms, and the delays in payments from insurers … when we have to stop to check the prescription monitoring program, or search for a course to fulfill our risk management CME’s, we should try to remember this: We helped some patients today.

“We should think for a moment about the impact we have on our patients’ lives, how much we become a part of their families, often without even realizing it.

“My point is that physicians really are different. Every day we have the potential to be involved in awesome life-and-death decision-making. We do our best to make those decisions, based not just on the whimsy of the day, but on scientific evidence, and then we take the feedback of the outcome of those decisions and use it to improve the quality of our next decision, be it for the current patient or the one we might see the next time.

“It’s what our patients expect, it’s what we like to be able to do, and it’s what we should remember on those days when the frustration mounts.

“So in this coming year, I plan to try to remember we are here to take care of patients, to improve the quality of care we deliver, to husband the resources needed to provide that quality of care, and to pay attention to … improving the work life of physicians and their staffs.

“I believe such an effort is reflected in the time-honored mission statement of the Medical Society: Maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards, while promoting medical institutions that are formed on liberal principles for the health, benefit, and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth. I shall endeavor to continue to make it so with the help of all of you.”

Watch Dr. Dimitri’s remarks here:

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