2014: Year of the Family Physician (Part XVI)

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir.”  That line is from Bliss Carman’s poem A Vagabond Song.  His work succinctly captures the transitional mood of autumn.  It is a time of rebalancing lives and perspectives.  The impulse to keep the body in motion through travel and outward pursuits amidst seemingly endless sunlight now shifts to more measured reflections housed in solitude with remnants of restlessness.

We will remember this autumn for the inaugural enrollment of patients into health care insurance exchanges stipulated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Will the change in season usher in a season of change?  Laments have fossilized into refrains: overtaxed patient panels; inability to access a personal physician; shortage of primary care physicians; obscene medical school tuition costs; escalating insurance premiums; abysmal health outcomes based on upper tier per capita spending; meddling third-parties dictating and destroying the patient-physician relationship.  This has gone on long enough and should stir the convictions in our blood.

Autumn skies give way to nightfall more readily.  The haze of summer has been swept away by the return of the rains and the winds.  We settle into a more sober state. The discussions surrounding the ACA will intensify as people enroll and provide feedback in the process.  There will be debates and questions.  People will take sides.  But, who will take the lead?  #2014yearfp is not a campaign; it is a platform for family physicians to step out from the misconceptions, disrespect, and outright ignorance that has plagued our value and image.  As the ACA progresses from enrollment to implementation, voices will be raised.  In turn, we need to raise consciousness.  We need to mobilize and transform the lamented refrains into reforms.  If we do not address the current states of graduate medical education funding, physician payment, and third-party interference in patient care, we will be saddled with our current dysfunctional system, but on a larger scale.  However, this is not an insulated endeavor.  We need to work in conjunction with the general population.  We need to stir their souls and awaken the power of unity.

Speak up; speak out.  Promote #2014yearfp to ensure that health insurance leads to health care.  This will only happen if we support the growth of family medicine.  Autumn will give way to winter.  The nights will grow longer.  Our time draws short.  The strength of our commitment during the remainder of the year will be evident in the breadth of #2014yearfp’s bloom in the spring.

Author: Ronald Fong, MD, MPH

Dr. Fong's opinions are his own and do not represent UC Davis. He can be reached at ronald.fong@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.

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