Chair’s report

Dr. Thomas F. ArnoldThomas F. Arnold, MD

The biannual production of our District VI newsletter provides district chairs with a welcome opportunity to explore new topics, dispense information, and share perspectives. It also affords the chance to recognize individuals and achievements within our district and sections.

In the past, my reports have dealt with weighty topics such as mentoring, the direction of health care, the relationship between politics and medicine, and the functional organization of ACOG. It seems appropriate that we occasionally stop, reflect, and appreciate what we do on a daily basis and how privileged we are to practice our specialty.

The specialty of ob-gyn, with its formal subspecialties and developing informal practice niches, allows a variety of practice opportunities unequaled in any other specialty. The ability for a practice to evolve with time allows adaptation to changing life demands and desires. Medicine, in general, provides adequate compensation, flexibility of work environments, and control over work schedules. Ob-gyn offers a most excellent blend of these choices.    

Just a mere decade ago, the perception of our specialty was causing young physicians to go into other branches of medicine. Often mentioned by students applying for residency was the “ROADE” to practice satisfaction: the specialties of radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, dermatology, and ENT (ear, nose, and throat).

Demanding call schedules and fear of litigation were identified as reasons not to pursue ob-gyn. The resultant decrease in applicants to residency programs caused consternation at a national level and prompted a thorough response. The trend has been successfully averted by a change in the perception of the specialty, in part related to a vigorous public relations campaign and to some timely changes in the practice of ob-gyn itself.

The growing need for ob-gyn subspecialists and the popularity of focused practices have helped to rekindle interest in our young provider demographic. This demographic is increasingly attentive to work-life balance and less focused on income or long-term single practice commitment. A narrower focus allowed by the pursuit of a subspecialty is considerably more attractive professionally and personally to those interested in ideal work-life balance.

The addition of laborists and ob-gyn hospitalists further assists in reducing the sometimes undesirable features that traditionally accompanied the practice of ob-gyn. Those who choose to provide these in-house services enjoy a well-defined shift schedule of responsibilities without the challenges of outpatient clinical practice. It creates a win-win situation for all involved.

Another change to be welcomed by physicians in general, and ob-gyns specifically, relates to how we care for our patients, get compensated, and manage our practices. Medicine is evolving to a system focused on health and well-being. This system will be rewarded more for keeping people healthy and out of the hospital and less for treating those that are hospitalized. In fact, a high percentage of hospital admissions may be considered a failure in our system’s ability to keep patients healthy.

Focusing physician compensation formulas more on patient care (including quality, safety, and accessibility) and less on volume will further enhance ob-gyns’ opportunities to do what we love to do—spend time taking care of our patients. It can only enhance the already special relationships we share with our patient population.

For many, the relationships we build with our patients are the most rewarding parts of practicing ob-gyn. It is a privilege to be involved in the birth of a baby, which is one of the most important life events parents will experience. To be allowed the honor of attending to a delivery is the ultimate expression of trust in a physician. Even with a difficult patient in the middle of the night we should appreciate that fact.

We should cherish the perception that we “get to” deliver babies and suppress the feeling that we “have to.” We should never lose sight of the fact that each of the lives we bring into the world is unique, special, and truly a miracle. And for all this enjoyment we get from our practice, we receive the added reward of love and respect from our patients. How many other medical specialties can claim these benefits?   

ACOG update
On November 17, the ACOG Committee on Nominations selected the slate of national officers for May 2013 to May 2014:

  • President Elect: John C. Jennings, MD, League City, TX
  • Secretary: Ben H. Cheek, MD, Columbus, GA
  • Fellow-at-Large: Paul G. Tomich, MD, Omaha, NE
  • Young Physician-at-Large: Michelle Y. Owens, MD, Jackson, MS

The Safety Certification in Outpatient Practice Excellence for Women’s Health Program (SCOPE) has seen a robust increase in requests for evaluation. 

District VI news
District VI has nominated Tamara G. Helfer, MD, District VI young physician, for an Outstanding District Service Award this year. Dr. Helfer is the District VI webmaster and recently was instrumental in establishing the District VI mentorship program. The program offers electronic and in-person mentoring to assist medical students, residents, and young physicians in education and career decision-making. It has been submitted for consideration for a Council of District Chairs Service Recognition Award. These awards will be presented at the Annual Clinical Meeting in May.