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From the chair

Dr. Susan M. LemagieSusan M. Lemagie, MD

Alaska River RaftingWhat do Alaskans do in the summer? Many of us are gardeners, growing everything in our 19 to 24 hours of daylight from giant cabbages to miniature high alpine plants that flourish in our scree gardens. Biking and hiking our local mountains are popular, but the activity that gives the most thrills per minute is river rafting! When you come to visit, be sure to float the Matanuska, Talkeetna, or Denali River.

Interim District Advisory Council Meeting
I have just got to brag about District VIII. We held our Interim District Advisory Council Meeting in April, and, as always, I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and energy of our Fellows and Junior Fellows. They are full of ideas about improving health care for their patients and solving practice problems for our doctors.

District VIII has 15 sections and is one of the largest districts within ACOG. Our Advisory Council has a great diversity of physicians, from those who practice rural medicine in critical access hospitals to those who practice academic medicine in large university centers. We encourage conversations on whatever the hot-button issues are in our sections, ranging from reproductive rights to elective inductions. 

Women’s health care is always a newsmaker. Even Alaska got national coverage during our legislative session this year when State Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), while advocating for prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome, introduced a measure to put free pregnancy tests in bars. When asked why the measure didn’t provide free condoms instead, he replied, “Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.” Of course, ob-gyns tend to think the other way around: Responsible people use birth control!

One of the most popular sessions at our IDAC Meeting is the Fellow and Junior Fellow session, where we exchange thoughts on topics pertinent to all. This year, Laura T. Mercer, MD, District VIII Junior Fellow chair, presented on ACOG’s new Committee Opinion on breast density to aid us in defeating legislative attempts to mandate practice standards that are not consistent with scientific evidence. Dr. Mercer’s presentation led to a discussion on the pros and cons of screening mammography, which is the best we have, though far from perfect as evidenced by its false positives and negatives. 

Stella M. Dantas, MD, District VIII secretary, led a panel on career options, transitions, and satisfaction. Robert H. Palmer Jr, MD, District VIII vice chair, Tersh McCracken, MD, District VIII treasurer, Nicole E. Marshall, MD, District VIII young physician, and Dr. Mercer, described their varied careers. Sleep deprivation, covering call, and burnout were among the topics debated. A lively discussion on the rigors and satisfactions of ob-gyn practice, in which everyone in the room participated, provoked thoughtful suggestions on improving work-life balance.

Our keynote speaker, Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, primed us on the simple things we can do to increase our personal happiness. Timothy C. McFarren, MD, Nevada Section chair, took her at her word and provided us all with chocolate at our concluding session.

ACOG leadership in the 21st century
James T. Breeden, MD, past ACOG president and past District VIII chair, shared ideas about leadership at the IDAC Meeting, based on findings from his presidential task force. Looking at the major generational and gender shifts within our membership, he pointed out that the current 35% female representation on the ACOG Executive Board, including five female district chairs, is far better than the average of 10–15% on most national corporate boards. He noted that representation will likely increase as older generations retire and Generations X and Y, which are composed of more than 80% women, mature and step up to leadership positions.   

ACOG Fellow Demographics

The ACOG Executive Board approved a new diversity statement to help volunteers and leaders understand that their willingness to serve helps the board avoid organizational blind spots. A new, more comprehensive database also is being created to make sure the board is culturally competent. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education found that ob-gyn has the largest representation of female African Americans and the second largest representation of Hispanic women of any specialty. However, ACOG currently has no formal repository for this information. Alternative pathways to leadership are encouraged within ACOG, with positions for three young physicians, two Fellows-at-large, and representatives from the subspecialty organizations.

Time is the single biggest obstacle to leadership that our membership identifies, particularly time away from family and practice. Since 2000, participation in national committees has included more video conferencing, efficient meetings, and task forces and work groups with child care. We have adopted similar policies at the district level, to the delight of our Junior Fellows and young physicians. 

A practical way to get involved in ACOG is to attend the Congressional Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. The dates for the 2015 conference are March 8–10. Contact your section leadership if you would like to attend. Also, consider supporting ACOG’s federal political action committee, Ob-GynPAC. The PAC made national news in the 2012 election cycle by raising more than $1 million dollars for the first time, with an 85% success rate in electing candidates who support women’s health. (You will not be favored or disadvantaged by reason of the amount of your contribution or a decision not to contribute. Contributions from foreign nationals are not permitted.)

In addition to leadership in ACOG, remember there are opportunities in your local hospitals and communities that help you practice leadership skills. Reading a good book, such as The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Women Lead the Way by Linda Tarr-Whelan, or The Female Vision by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson, can give you great tips. When you identify something that needs to be changed, clarify your vision by speaking out and involving others, and you’ll be on your way.

District VIII produces leaders! Congratulations to the following individuals, who received awards at the Annual Clinical Meeting in Chicago:

  • James R. Scott, MD, Luella Klein Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Luis B. Curet, MD, past District VIII chair, Arthur P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Award
  • Lynn M. Coppola, MD, International Service Award
  • W. Lawrence Warner, MD, Utah Section chair, Council of District Chairs Service Recognition Award
  • Tod C. Aeby, MD, Outstanding District Service Award
  • Maria Gaspar-Oishi, MD, Donald F. Richardson Memorial Prize Paper Award

Resources for patients and physicians
Check out the following new resources for patients and physicians:

2014 Annual District Meeting
Come to Napa, CA, at harvest time with Districts VI, VIII, and IX for the 2014 Annual District Meeting. The meeting will be held September 5–7 at the Silverado Resort. The program, “Scholars and Sommeliers: Learn from California’s Leaders,” will feature updates on environmental toxins and reproductive health, synthetic mesh complications, hormone therapy, and gynecologic oncology challenges. I hope to see you there!