Dr. Dorkin joins Sen. Markey to oppose Graham-Cassidy

Posted in Uncategorized on September 25th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

Below is a transcript to the testimony given by Dr. Henrly L. Dorkin, M.D., FAAP, President, Massachusetts Medical Society Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 on the Graham-Cassidy Bill:

Thank you, Senator Markey, for inviting me to join you today and for your willingness to fight for the people of Massachusetts.

As the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, I am here to strongly oppose the bill. Rather than focusing on common-sense approaches to shore up the insurance markets and make the ACA work better, the sponsors of this bill have introduced an approach that is even worse than those that came before.

Let me give you a specific example of why this is the case.

Dr. Dorkin, MMS President, at testimony on Graham-Cassidy

I’m a pediatric pulmonologist. Let me tell you about a condition that quickly deteriorates when patients aren’t able to receive regular checkups and preventive care: asthma.

Asthma is major cause of illness in children of all ages. It has a tremendous impact on their overall health and quality of life, and it also has a considerable impact on the overall cost of medical care.

These children, if their disease is not well controlled, spend a lot of time in the doctor’s office, the emergency room, the inpatient service, and (not infrequently) the intensive care unit.

Children without health insurance have less access to the medications and preventive care that keep them well. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has allowed many families previously without health insurance to obtain it. This has allowed them access to the type of care which reduces exacerbations of the disease and keeps children out of the hospital.

As these children grow up, they need continuous care to let them flourish as adults – and that requires reliable, affordable, meaningful insurance coverage.

Graham-Cassidy would attack that in two ways. By undoing essential health benefits, it would allow insurance companies to choose not to cover the type of preventive care that keeps patients healthy. And by slashing protections for patients with preexisting conditions – conditions like asthma – the bill would allow insurance companies to charge astronomic rates beyond the reach of too many patients like mine.

I shudder to imagine the impact on my patients as a result of block grants. As funds dry up, the need for life-saving care goes on. I think of my cystic fibrosis patients, in need of life-saving interventions. They cannot wait for federal funding. Their conditions will simply not allow it.

It is my life’s work to fight for children with respiratory diseases. As the president of the MMS, I am here on behalf of 25,000 other Massachusetts physicians who have made a similar commitment to their patients.

We must do better for them, and I’m glad to be here to talk about how we can do so.

I would like to share a personal story. A decade ago my wife and I were at the wedding of a young woman with Cystic Fibrosis who had survived a lung transplant. While she and her new husband were out on the dance floor, my wife leaned over to me and whispered, ” you know, when I married you, we used to go to a lot of funerals of 8 and 10 year olds. Now we are going to a bunch of weddings of 30 year olds. I like this better.” I told her I liked it better, too.  I fear that if Graham-Cassidy were to pass, we would go back to attending more funerals of children. That would be unbearable, and unfair.

I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say we look forward to working with you to make sure that does not happen.


Raw, heartbreaking look at the opioid crisis from the front lines

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

If you’ve not yet read the incredible piece by the Cincinnati Enquirer about the opioid crisis in an around that city, please take a few moments out of your day to so, by clicking here.

The final tally in one week: 180 reported overdoses, 18 deaths.

While Cincinnati was the setting for this outstanding piece, the location, unfortunately, could’ve been “Anytown, USA.”  One can’t help but wonder if any of the overdoses and deaths depicted in the piece could have been prevented if the users had at their disposal a supervised injection facility, staffed by healthcare professionals, there in case of emergency and to suggest and navigate ways in which help can be received.


Massachusetts Medical Society launches Comprehensive Cannabis Curriculum series for doctors, healthcare providers

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

The Massachusetts Medical Society, together with Dr. Stephen B. Corn and Dr. Meredith Fisher-Corn from medical education website TheAnswerPage.com, has developed a Comprehensive Cannabis Curriculum intended to equip doctors and healthcare providers with a robust training on the medical, legal and social issues regarding marijuana use.

“With legalization of both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana growing in states across the U.S., it is imperative that physicians be prepared to answer questions about marijuana use and to counsel their patients about any potential impact of cannabis,” said Dr. Henry L. Dorkin, FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society.


The online course was reviewed by the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Sponsored Programs and by Dr. Alan Ehrlich, an assistant clinical professor in Family Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and deputy editor for DynaMed.

“The Comprehensive Cannabis Curriculum is neither an endorsement of the usage of cannabinoid medications by the Massachusetts Medical Society nor a recommendation to impede healthcare professionals from considering utilization of medical cannabis,” Dorkin said.  “We are confident that the curriculum, which was subject to multiple layers of expert review, will provide the data needed to facilitate (between patients and their healthcare providers) informed, balanced, transparent and important conversations, based upon the strongest and most comprehensive research available at present.”

The Comprehensive Cannabis Curriculum expands significantly on the Society’s existing continuing medical education offerings on the medical uses of cannabis.

The course provides details of the endocannabinoid system and its interactions with medical cannabis, cannabis administration, dosing, contraindications, metabolism and drug interactions.  Studies addressing the physiologic, cognitive and mental health effects of cannabis are reviewed in detail.

Additional modules are focused on the medical use of cannabis for 10 distinct disease states, including ALS, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Huntington’s Disease, IBS, multiple sclerosis and spasticity, neuropathic pain and Parkinson’s Disease.

“The course addresses a huge knowledge deficit clinicians have regarding risks and benefits of marijuana and other cannbinoinds,” Dr. Ehrlich said. “The chapters have been written by leading experts and the presentation is very balanced with an emphasis on the best available evidence. This is just what doctors need to be able to have constructive conversations with their patients when the subject of medical marijuana comes up.”

TheAnswerPage has been offering medical educational content worldwide since 1998, providing peer-reviewed content focused on medical cannabis, pain and the opioid epidemic.



Mass. Medical Society reacts to latest attempt to repeal ACA

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31st, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Mass. Medical Society reacts to latest attempt to repeal ACA

Massachusetts Medical Society: MMS Statement on the Affordable Care Act

The following is a statement from Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, regarding efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Dr. Henry Dorkin

Dr. Henry Dorkin

“(Last week’s) vote (a demonstration of due democratic process) against a so-called ‘skinny’ repeal of the Affordable Care Act helps protect the health care of millions of America’s patients. From coast to coast, including here in the Commonwealth, Americans have voiced their concern about, and opposition to, outright repeal of the ACA. We are grateful to the majority of U.S. Senators, including Senator Ed Markey and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who demonstrated their commitment to fighting on behalf of their constituents’ access to health care. We also thank Senators Collins, Murkowski and McCain and applaud their efforts to keep any Americans from losing their health care access.

“It is long-standing policy of the Massachusetts Medical Society that we advocate for universal access to insurance coverage. None of the legislative options presented in recent months – neither straightforward repeal, repeal-and-replace nor this ‘skinny’ repeal – would have advanced the mission of promoting reliable, affordable, effective insurance coverage for our patients. A health care bill should actually improve the health of Americans, not worsen it.

“Once again, we urge Congress to join representatives of the medical community in collaborating on legislation that would improve, strengthen and sustain the Affordable Care Act, which has extended health coverage to record numbers of Americans. Now is the time to abandon efforts at repeal and instead focus on how to make the ACA work even better for more of our neighbors and patients.”

Mass. Medical Society: Marijuana bill ‘a significant step forward’

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Mass. Medical Society: Marijuana bill ‘a significant step forward’

Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, released the following statement regarding the marijuana bill compromise:


“The Massachusetts Medical Society commends and thanks the Legislature for its diligence and thoughtful leadership and recommendations toward installing protections for the public’s health. We’re pleased that many facets of the bill are consistent with the advocacy efforts put forth by our membership. From a public health perspective, this compromise bill represents a significant step forward.


“Inclusion of public health experts within the Cannabis Control Commission structure and funding earmarked for public and behavioral health, prevention, treatment, intervention and critical research related to marijuana use demonstrate a focus on the health of the people of Massachusetts.


“We are encouraged by the labeling and packaging requirements and the incorporation of warnings on marijuana products, as well as marketing and advertising restrictions in place to reduce youth consumption.


“We look forward to working in tandem with the Cannabis Control Commission on developing and implementing strategies that will increase protections and safety for all Massachusetts residents.”

Doctor discusses broaching gun safety with patients

Posted in Gun Safety, Public Health, Uncategorized on July 14th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Doctor discusses broaching gun safety with patients

A mistake turned deadly last week when a Chicago-area teenager mishandled a gun in his home, leading to the accidental shooting of his 17-year-old girlfriend.

While child-involved accidental shootings are prominent – a child dies from an accidental shooting every other day in the United States, according to a joint investigation by USA Today Network and the Associated Press – these accidents can be reduced or avoided, and physicians can be a conduit to to a decrease.

According to a recent report, a child is killed accidentally by a gun every other day in the US.

In a recent interview (you can view it here), Dr. Michael Hirsh, a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Public Health and pediatric surgery chief at UMass Memorial Medical Center, said he believes firearm safety should be part of a larger, honest conversation about health and safety that takes place between a physician and patients.

Dr. Hirsh also suggests physicians make use of the Mass. Medical Society’s resources on gun safety. Developed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, literature for patients and, for physicians, helpful tips on broaching the subject of gun safety with patients, the materials can be viewed and downloaded here, along with training videos.

The Massachusetts Medical Society is strongly opposed to legislative interference in the right of physicians and patients (or their parents or guardians) to discuss gun ownership, storage, and safety in the home.


Mass. Medical Society supports bill that would end discrimination against gay men wishing to donate blood

Posted in discrimination, Health Policy, HIV, Uncategorized on July 13th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Mass. Medical Society supports bill that would end discrimination against gay men wishing to donate blood


Earlier this month, Jimmy Kimmel took to Twitter and leveraged his significant social media profile to encourage blood and platelet donation.

Staff and volunteers attached to blood donation centers across the nation have in recent weeks furiously stepped up donor recruiting efforts.

The summer season – and, specifically, the Fourth of July holiday – is a predictable time in which a blood shortage or “summer slump” may occur.  No matter the season, however, blood supply shortage puts patients’ lives at risk, including those who may need blood after an accident or who are facing treatment for cancer and blood diseases.

The media coverage of the nation’s most recent shortage brings to the forefront the fact that an entire segment of the United States is barred from giving blood, and a shift in that policy would increase the pool of potential donors and likely lessen the shortage and save additional lives.

The Massachusetts Medical Society is proud to support Rep. Daniel Cullinane (D – 12th Suffolk) and of HB 3597, An Act relative to eliminating discrimination in blood donations. This bill would require blood donation facilities not to discriminate against prospective donors on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, while allowing those facilities to require proof of a negative HIV test prior to accepting donated blood.

Currently, FDA regulations recommend that men who have sex with men be deferred from donating blood.

The MMS has a long history of advocating to remove discrimination based on sexual orientation. MMS policy “strongly supports the rights of individuals to health, happiness, and liberty regardless of sexual orientation…and urges all governments to recognize these rights.” Accordingly, MMS policy favors lifting the FDA deferral of blood donation for men who have sex with men: “The MMS supports a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.” Accordingly, we recognize the importance of testing donated blood for HIV/AIDs, and we commend this legislation for stipulating that blood donation facilities may require individuals to provide negative HIV test results prior to donating to ensure the safety of our Commonwealth’s blood supply.

We wish to note that, while our policy refers specifically to enacting policy change on a federal level to address this issue, making this change at the state level is consistent with the MMS’s anti-discriminatory stance. Massachusetts has a chance to be a leader on this important shift in policy, and we as a medical society stand proudly with Rep. Cullinane at the forefront of this change.

Furthermore, this bill would not only combat discrimination based on sexual orientation; it would also save lives by increasing the supply of donor blood. The Commonwealth currently faces a shortage of donated blood: the American Red Cross issued an emergency call for blood and platelet donations this year. This bill would add to the pool of potential donors in Massachusetts.

The MMS urges the Committee on Public Health to report H.3597 out of Committee favorably.






January Physician Focus: Too much medicine?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3rd, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on January Physician Focus: Too much medicine?


The conventional wisdom in medicine says that more care leads to better health, as annual physicals and regular screenings may lead to the early detection of diseases.  Research shows, however, that many medical tests and procedures are unnecessary and in some cases, can cause harm.

Dr. Dale Magee (l), Dr. H. Gilbert Welch

Dr. Dale Magee (l), Dr. H. Gilbert Welch

The January edition of Physician Focus examines the subject of ‘too much medicine’ with Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a general internist, Professor of Medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and author of Less Medicine, More Health: 7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care.  Hosting this edition is MMS Past President Dale Magee, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UMass Medical School.

Dr. Welch acknowledges that the screening of at-risk populations makes sense and that it’s a good thing to see a physician when something is wrong, but cautions that, amid a push for more testing in medicine today, “all treatments have some harms” and that the downside of early detection can be “a recipe for turning well people into patients unnecessarily.”  He urges patients to be cautious, to talk to their physicians, and to inform themselves about the pros and cons of testing and screening.

Physician Focus is distributed to public access television stations throughout Massachusetts, reaching residents in more than 275 cities and towns. It is also available online at www.physicianfocus.org, www.massmed.org/physicianfocus, and on YouTube.

Editor’s Note: In November, Dr. Welch delivered the 41st Annual Garland Lecture, “Less Medicine, More Health,” at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.  Video of his lecture is available at the above link.

December Physician Focus: Superbugs

Posted in Uncategorized on December 9th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on December Physician Focus: Superbugs

The spread of “superbugs” – germs, bacteria, fungi, and parasites that are resistant to the medications intended to kill them – is a rising concern in medicine. Each year in the United States, two million people become infected with drug-resistant bacteria, and some 23,000 die as a result of those infections.

Dr. Bruce Karlin (l); Dr. Alfred DeMaria Jr.

Dr. Bruce Karlin (l); Dr. Alfred DeMaria Jr.

The December edition of Physician Focus discusses “superbugs” with Alfred DeMaria Jr., M.D., Medical Director and State Epidemiologist of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Among the topics of conversation are how these bugs originate, how severe the threat is, what public health officials are doing to address these conditions, what patients can do to protect themselves, and the importance of the proper use of antibiotics in curbing the spread of these infections.

Physician Focus is distributed to public access television stations throughout Massachusetts, reaching residents in more than 275 cities and towns. It is also available online at www.physicianfocus.org, www.massmed.org/physicianfocus, and on YouTube.

IM-16 Town Hall Forum: All about MACRA

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on IM-16 Town Hall Forum: All about MACRA

The Town Hall Forum with the Presidential Officers held Friday evening as part of IM-16 occupied a singular subject: MACRA, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, which MMS President James S. Gessner, M.D. characterized as “perhaps the most revolutionary change in Medicare reimbursement since the inception of Medicare.”

Alex Calcagno

Alex Calcagno

The 2,400-page rule was the object of MMS advocacy on both the Federal and state levels, and MMS comments on the proposals amounted to more than 22 pages. Many of the comments were incorporated into the final document.

The Forum was a presentation by MMS staff member Alex Calcagno, Director of Advocacy, Government and Community Relations and the primary liaison between MMS and the federal government, and had three goals:  (1) presenting a general overview of the provisions of the rule; (2) outlining the time frame of implementation and the choices physicians have in participating; and (3) citing resources available for physicians to help them through the process.

The MMS has established a dedicated webpage for MACRA at www.massmed.org/MACRA, which provides information and resources on the rule. Additional information is available from the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services.  Members are urged to check the sites frequently, as information is added as it becomes available.

Ms. Calcagno’s presentation may be viewed here.