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

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

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 – Be the first to comment

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 – Be the first to comment


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.


Senator Markey Headlines MMS Opioid Summit

Posted in Health, Health Policy, opioids, Public Health, Uncategorized on November 1st, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Senator Markey Headlines MMS Opioid Summit

On October 31, MMS sponsored a leadership summit on opioid addiction, Medication Assisted Treatment: Improving Access to Evidence-Based Care, an event intended to raise awareness of the need for medication assisted treatment for substance use disorder. The summit was attended by nearly 200 health care professionals at MMS headquarters in Waltham.

U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, in his keynote address, said, “If we are going to reduce the supply for heroin, fentanyl, and illicit prescription opioids, we have to reduce the demand through treatment.”

“I will not stop fighting for legislative support on this issue,” Sen. Markey added, noting that despite his efforts and those of his colleagues, Congress has repeatedly rejected bills that would financially support addiction recovery programs.

He decried the rising numbers of deaths in Massachusetts due to overdoses  — doubling in number in the Bay State in one year — and warned that due to the potent influx of fentanyl from China and Mexico, “we are poised to lose even more lives.”

Gathered for the Opioid Summit: Dr. Dennis Dimitri, Dr. Monica Bharel, Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, Senator Edward Markey, MMS President Dr. James Gessner, MMS President-Elect Dr. Henry Dorkin, MMS Vice President Dr. Alain Chaoui

Gathered for the Opioid Summit: Dr. Dennis Dimitri, Dr. Monica Bharel, Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, Senator Edward Markey, MMS President Dr. James Gessner, MMS President-Elect Dr. Henry Dorkin, MMS Vice President Dr. Alain Chaoui

“Fentanyl is like a Class 5 hurricane making landfall,” Sen. Markey said. “It is the Godzilla of opioids. It is trending too quickly. It is so dangerous that first responders insist on wearing HazMat suits when they arrive at a scene of an overdose for fear they will become contaminated if exposed to it. We just don’t know how dangerous it is, and it’s coming to every street in America.”

Combatting the opioid epidemic requires vigilance coupled with “aggressive data collection, surveillance, increased prescriber and patient education, and the passage of aggressive new laws,” he said, that are aimed at controlling the influx and consumption of opioid drugs.

Markey alerted attendees to a report by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on opioids due to be released early in 2017.

“The Surgeon General’s report on opioids will have a great societal impact,” Sen. Markey said, “similar to when the former Surgeon General years ago released the report about the health hazards of cigarette smoking. History will judge us, because now is our opportunity to respond to the greatest public health crisis in the 21st century.”

Several speakers, including Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, M.D., Middlesex County Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian, and others called for a unified effort to destigmatize those who struggle with substance abuse.

“Treatment works, recovery is possible,” Koutoujian said. He described treatment programs sponsored by the Bay State’s criminal justice system that are helping inmates to return to society after incarceration better able to control their drug habits.

Dr. Bharel reminded the capacity audience to commit to viewing substance abuse addiction through the lens of the #StateWithoutStigMA campaign, launched last year by Governor Charlie Baker’s Opioid Working Group. The statewide campaign aims to eradicate the negative stereotype of drug misuse by declaring it to be a treatable illness.

MMS gathered more than a dozen national and local experts on the topic for this summit to speak to such topics as the treatment of addiction as a disease, the importance of psychological treatment and behavioral support, models of care, and supporting physicians and providers in treating opioid use disorders. It was hosted by MMS President James S. Gessner, M.D. and moderated by Dennis M. Dimitri, M.D., immediate past president and Chair of the MMS Task Force on Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication.

Presentations by the participants may be viewed here.  For highlights and photos from the event visit the MMS Twitter page.

November Physician Focus: Choosing Your Care

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31st, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on November Physician Focus: Choosing Your Care

Health care is undergoing rapid change today, affecting hospitals, physicians, and patients alike in many ways.  These changes are making the health care system increasingly complex, raising questions and confusion for patients. How to simplify the process, get questions answered, limit the confusion, and obtain good, quality care are key elements that patients should consider when choosing their care.  The November edition of Physician Focus examines those areas and others in discussing the important factors patients should consider when choosing their health care.

Dr. Bruce Karlin, Dr. Barbara Spivak

Dr. Bruce Karlin, Dr. Barbara Spivak

The guest for this program is Barbara Spivak, M.D., a primary care physician with Mount Auburn Medical Associates in Cambridge and Chair of the MMS Committee on Quality of Medical Practice. Dr. Spivak is also president and Chair of the Board of the Mount Auburn Cambridge Independent Practice Association and Vice Chair of Massachusetts Health Quality Partners.  Hosting this program is Bruce Karlin, M.D.

Among the topics of conversation are the best ways to select a physician, online sites that rate physicians, the trend to team-based care and how it affects patients, and what patients should do if they decide they don’t like their doctor.

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.

Senior Volunteer Physicians Discuss Free Health Care

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Senior Volunteer Physicians Discuss Free Health Care

The MMS Committee on Senior Volunteer Physicians convened its 13th Annual Fall Forum for Free Health Care Programs on October 26, with nearly 100 attendees discussing their experiences in helping burgeoning populations that visit free clinics throughout the Bay State.

In her welcoming remarks, Committee Chair Helen Cajigas, M.D. urged attendees to assist the committee with ongoing administrative needs to foster better communication between the free clinics.

Delivering the keynote address was Massachusetts Department of Health Commissioner (DPH) Monica Bharel, M.D., who spoke about BP shot“The Intersection Between Massachusetts Free Health Care Programs and the DPH.” Her remarks were followed by a question and answer session with Kevin Cranston, assistant commissioner at DPH.  Cranston, who also serves as director of the Bureau of Infection Disease and Laboratory Sciences, provided information and answered questions about the growing threat of Zika.

Dr. Bharel, in acknowledging that the ages of the forum’s attendees ran the gamut from retired physicians to medical students and residents, said she was heartened that everyone seemed eager to learn from one another.

“My father is a doctor in New York,” she said, “and I learned about medicine by helping him in his practice when I was a young girl. He inspired me and my two siblings, and all three of us today are pursuing careers in medicine. It’s good for medical students to get started early and to work together with mentors to give back to the community.”

Dr. Bharel noted that while Massachusetts citizens are among the healthiest in the nation, there is an ongoing need to examine data compiled by clinics, hospitals, and other state agencies to “target services to better impact outcomes, eradicate inequities, and to identify what the social determinants are that prevent those who need health care services from obtaining them.”

Interviews with many of the attendees identified various areas of concern with regard to delivering health care to unserved and underserved populations.

Several attendees identified homelessness as an issue of growing concern. Jessica Peters, M.D., a volunteer physician with Health Care Without Walls, said the program, founded in 1999 by Roseanna H. Means, M.D., increasingly is in need of volunteer nurses and physicians to treat the growing population of women and their children, many of whom are also struggling with issues of domestic violence.

Another group identified in need of health care is undocumented immigrants, who also face language barriers. Patients visiting the statewide clinics come to Massachusetts from such far flung locales as Brazil, Ghana, the Philippines, Uganda, India, Bangladesh, and Puerto Rico.

Gracia Perez-Lirio, M.D., who hails from the Philippines, said she and her colleagues are reviving the Philippine Medical Association’s free clinic, which had been dormant in recent years due to the influx of Filipino immigrants.

Other attendees who serve as language interpreters at walk-in clinics said they are aware that patients often commute from great distances within Massachusetts and adjacent New England states in their quests to obtain free medical help.

Cynthia Akagbosu, a fourth year medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine, said she helps patients by volunteering with the Sharewood Project in Malden by providing interpretive services. Born in Nigeria, schooled in England and Florida, Ms. Akagbosu is fluent in Spanish.

The MMS Committee on Senior Volunteer Physicians uses the experience and skills of retired physicians to address common interests and community needs on a voluntary, part-time basis. Anyone interested in participating in the committee’s work or volunteering at a free health clinic should contact Chew-Hoong Koh at ckoh@mms.org  or 781-434-7312.

–Robert Israel













MMS Website Service Restored

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS Website Service Restored

The MMS website is now back in operation, after a brief “downtime” period for the installation of a new member database. Members please note that the first time you log into the website, you will be required to reconfirm your password.  You may enter the same password you are currently using, and you will be asked to reconfirm it OR you may enter a new password, and you will likewise be asked to confirm it. This process should take less than one minute.  After logging in, you may continue to use the rest of the site.

If you have any questions, or if you need assistance, please contact our Customer Service Department by phone at 800-843-6356 or by e-mail at webmaster@mms.org.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this period.