MMS statement on birth control coverage

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS statement on birth control coverage

October 6, 2017 – Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, released the following statement regarding coverage of birth control:

“Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of women around the country have benefited from no-copay coverage of contraception. Reducing financial barriers to effective birth control helps women avoid unintended pregnancy and its related health implications. Birth control helps women choose when to become pregnant, which can lead to better outcomes for them and for their families. And coverage of contraception without a co-pay removes the financial burdens for women who rely on birth control for non-contraceptive purposes.

“In the face of a federal rollback of these important protections, the Massachusetts Medical Society is grateful to our elected officials, who are pursuing innovative approaches toward expanding birth control access for women and families across the state.

“Our state legislation would not only maintain the protections under the Affordable Care Act – it would actually take steps to ensure greater access to a range of forms of contraception for both men and women, including emergency contraception and highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC).

“As physicians, we recognize the value of contraception to the families of Massachusetts. We are disappointed that access to needed birth control will be scaled back for many women across the country, but we are grateful to the elected officials of the Commonwealth who understand that birth control is essential medical care.”

In a disaster, ham radio can save lives

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on In a disaster, ham radio can save lives

By Dr. Henry L. Dorkin, FAAP, M.D., President,  Massachusetts Medical Society

As an amateur (ham) radio aficionado, I’ve been reading with interest about new federal government regulations that call for hospitals to have alternative telecommunication systems in place for regional or national emergencies.  

One such alternative means of communication is ham radio, which is already deployed by many hospitals as part of their disaster response plans and was crucial in providing imperative communications in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. 

Dr. Henry L. Dorkin

In recent weeks, unfathomable and unfortunate circumstances again proved ham radio to be indisputably necessary and effective in an emergency, as parts of the United States and the Caribbean were decimated by hurricanes. 

The Federal Communications Commission reported that at one point last week more than 95 percent of cell phone towers in Puerto Rico were down, leaving millions in Puerto Rico and abroad helpless in trying to reach relatives and friends to confirm their safety. 

Enter ham radio and a volunteer group of trained and dedicated operators, including ARES – the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, and RACES – the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.  

A recent CNN headline proclaimed “Ham radio operators are saving Puerto Rico one transmission at a time.”  Some 50 ham radio operators descended on the disaster scene to provide communications for critical services that were destroyed by the natural disaster.  

The operators operated on frequencies well above standard AM radio bands; they shared by voice, digital and Morse code communications the storm’s track and relayed to first responders information on sick residents in need of urgent medical care.  

The reason amateur radio is invaluable in an emergency is because ham radio technologies are not totally dependent on the modern grid. Emergency operation with portable antennas and emergency battery/solar power/generators can be established quickly in almost any setting. 

Of course, that’s not to say that standard technologies don’t offer tremendous promise for patient care as well as population health. From wearables to telehealth, there’s more to technology than the new iPhone, but when new technology cannot withstand the blows of natural or man-made disasters and lives are stake, we must have reliable backup, and ham radio has been just that for more than 100 years. 

The Society would like to know how many licensed amateur radio operators we have in the MMS. Please contact me with your call sign via e-mail to This may be an added facet to our Disaster Preparedness. If you are already involved with ARES or RACES, please include that in the e-mail as well 


Henry L. Dorkin MD, FAAP 

President, Massachusetts Medical Society

WM1V – Hank 

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

Posted in Uncategorized on September 25th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Dr. Dorkin joins Sen. Markey to oppose Graham-Cassidy

Below is a transcript to the testimony given by Dr. Henry 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.


MMS files amicus brief in potential landmark opioid-related case

Posted in opioids on September 20th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS files amicus brief in potential landmark opioid-related case

A statement from Henry L. Dorkin, M.D., FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, on the Society’s filing of an amicus brief in “The Julie Eldred Case.”

During the last several years, I have taken great professional and personal pride in the Massachusetts Medical Society’s public positions on important questions. One of these is acknowledgment of our obligation to take strong and decisive actions that we, as a delegation of physicians calling on our knowledge and ethics, determine will curtail and one day end one of our nation’s most pressing public health crises – the opioid epidemic.

Our advocacy work on this has been relentless and resolute. Therefore, we cannot, in good conscience, remain on the sidelines as a potential landmark case affecting patients who suffer from opioid abuse disorder plays out imminently in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The Supreme Judicial Court will hear the case of Julie Eldred, a Massachusetts woman who suffers from opioid use disorder, and who, as part of her probation for admitting guilt on a larceny charge, was ordered to “remain substance-free and submit to random drug testing.”

Ms. Eldred, having recently started treatment, later tested positive for fentanyl, lighting a legal fuse that could have major implications on the way in which opioid abuse disorder is treated in our legal system.

At stake in this pivotal case is whether an individual can be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned because of a recurrence of a symptom; in this instance, relapse, a common symptom many with opioid use disorder experience before attaining complete abstinence.

The MMS, along with other organizations, including the Association for Behavioral Medicine, the BMC Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine and the Northeastern University’s Center for Health Policy and Law, was compelled to file with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court an amicus brief (which you can read by clicking here) conveying our position.

It goes without saying that the Society neither condones nor dismisses commission of any crimes; however, we are respectfully urging the Court to recognize that opioid abuse disorder is a medically diagnosed chronic disease. Mandating an individual “guarantee relapse does not occur upon penalty of incarceration” is out of alignment with the scientific evidence that opioid abuse disorder is best addressed (with a greater level of success) as a public health issue rather than as a criminalized behavior.


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

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Raw, heartbreaking look at the opioid crisis from the front lines

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 – Comments Off on Massachusetts Medical Society launches Comprehensive Cannabis Curriculum series for doctors, healthcare providers

The Massachusetts Medical Society, together with Dr. Stephen B. Corn and Dr. Meredith Fisher-Corn from medical education website, 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.



September: Don’t let down guard against Lyme disease

Posted in Lyme disease on August 24th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on September: Don’t let down guard against Lyme disease

By Catherine Brown, D.V.M., M.Sc., M.P.H and Allen Steere, MD.

As the summer winds down and our thoughts turn to back-to-school preparation and pumpkin lattes, it’s important to remember that the local threat of Lyme disease doesn’t immediately fade away.

In fact, September is still part of the peak season for ticks, especially the black-legged tick — more commonly referred to as the deer tick — which can transmit Lyme disease (and, less commonly, other diseases) to humans and pets with its bite. This year, as you’ve probably heard, there may have been even more ticks around than usual. Summer and early fall are often when symptoms of Lyme disease tend to show up.


Lyme disease is still a risk, even as weather starts to cool in September.


Using precautions can help curtail your risk of exposure to Lyme disease. Along with taking precautions, we need to sort out the facts from myths.

Ticks like damp shady areas and they’re also ground dwelling. They live in vegetation, under leaf litter, close to the ground. They move up grass stems and leaves, waiting for a person or animal to brush past. People tend to think of ticks as being solely in forested areas, and that’s a mistake. In Massachusetts, ticks can also be found in suburban areas.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one, single step one could take to completely protect themselves from ticks, but there are two important routines that are proven effective — one before you go outside and the other when you get back inside.

When going into areas of risk, it is advisable to use a tick repellant that includes an EPA-registered ingredient. Those active ingredients will be listed on the packaging of the product, and include DEET and permethrin. DEET should be applied to exposed skin, while permethrin should be used on shoes and clothing.

Upon returning from the outdoors, run your hands over your body, feeling for a little bump that might be an attached tick. Taking a shower within about two hours will rinse off any unattached ticks you may have missed, and a research study concluded that throwing clothes in the dryer on high heat for about 10 minutes will kill ticks that may be on your clothing.

If you discover a tick, don’t panic. If it hasn’t attached to your body, you can simply brush it off and move on.

If a tick has attached, it’s important to remove the tick promptly and properly, since the longer a tick is attached, the more increased its chance to spread disease.

The standard recommendation is to use tweezers that have fine points on them, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull straight up firmly — don’t twist — and pull it out. There’s a lot of false information online about tick removal, and some of those methods may irritate the tick or delay complete removal, increasing the risk of disease transmission.

After a tick is removed, check that area of skin for signs of Lyme disease. The most commonly discussed sign is a slowly expanding redness that occurs at the site of the tick bite. The redness can occur a couple days after a bite or up to a month after.  Although the rash is common, it may go unnoticed or be dismissed as being caused by something else.

Typically, flu-like symptoms of Lyme disease will present, including headache, neck stiffness, some joint pain and some muscle pain.

This can be a confusing presentation of the disease, since such symptoms may be caused by viral infection, as well as by Lyme disease or its co-infecting agents. If flu-like symptoms develop during summer and if you have had potential exposure to ticks, visit your physician.

If early Lyme disease is diagnosed, the typical course of treatment is several weeks of antibiotic therapy, which usually is sufficient to treat the infection. If Lyme disease isn’t treated promptly, it can cause more serious symptoms, including neurological or heart problems or arthritis. These manifestations of the illness can still be treated with antibiotic therapy, but the course of therapy may need to be a little longer.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has a dedicated website,, with information on protecting yourself from tick-borne illness.

Catherine Brown, D.V.M., M.Sc., M.P.H. is the Deputy State Epidemiologist and State Public Health Veterinarian at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Allen Steere, MD, is principal investigator for the Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.


MA newspaper endorses idea of supervised injection facility study

Posted in opioids on August 14th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MA newspaper endorses idea of supervised injection facility study

The Lowell Sun, a newspaper based in a geography that has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, has published an editorial in which it encourages the idea of studying the effectiveness of a supervised injection facility locally.

“Certainly, those on both sides of this issue make strong arguments. However, the grave consequences of continually fighting a losing battle in the war on drugs demands that we must seriously explore every reasonable alternative,” the editorial read.

Read more:

The Massachusetts Medical Society is in favor of such sites and earlier this summer testified in front of the Boston City Council on the subject. You can read that testimony by MMS President Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP  here.

Lowell-area officials weigh in on concept of supervised injection facility to combat opioid epidemic

Posted in opioids on August 8th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Lowell-area officials weigh in on concept of supervised injection facility to combat opioid epidemic

The Greater-Lowell area, like so many areas across the state and the country, is facing a serious opioid crisis.  Lowell Sun reporter Rick Sobey spoke with  Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society and officials from the area about the concept of a supervised injection facility in or around Lowell.

Click here to read the piece.

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.”