It is difficult to escape the incessant talk about health care. The discourse ranges from the need to place the care back in health care to making health care affordable and accessible to all. I am a weekly guest on a radio talk show in Texas, and we frequently discuss issues regarding the delivery of medical care. I am tickled when I hear people say that the health care system is broken. For those of us who deliver medical care and teach the next generation of providers and researchers, the allegations of a system wide break down insult our every effort. I do not speak for the entire medical community, but the microcosm of providers with which I interact are equally as frustrated. Budget cuts at the federal level have trickled down to the states, which provide funding for hospitals and academic medical centers.
I propose that we meet the challenge, as did Dr. Robert M. D´Allesandri, MD, who is the founding dean of The Commonwealth Medical College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Satellite campuses are located in Williamsport and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Dr. D´Allessandri designed a medical school, which opened in 2009 and is currently recruiting a third group of students. During this school´s brief existence, the founder has achieved a few major goals. He has set the college´s priorities and institutional direction, recruited faculty, staff, and students, initiated the research agenda, and developed a creative, community based medical education. The innovators at TCMC are not complaining about the shortage of physicians; this pioneering group of professionals has accepted the challenge and is developing the next generation of physicians and biomedical researchers.
This boom in new allopathic medical schools is the first since the 1970´s, while osteopathic medical schools have grown at a steady rate. Allopathic medical schools produce Medical Doctors and osteopathic medical schools produce DO´s or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. Both disciplines are qualified to apply for residency and fellowship training. We will discuss the difference in philosophies in a future post.
One does not have to build a new medical school to recognize a problem and solve it. Everyone can play a part. Find a need in your community and devise a plan to meet that need. If you are an awesome letter writer or a diligent telephone campaigner, offer that talent to a health related organization in your area. I hear the grumbling in the hospitals, medical schools and practices. A colleague who has operated a successful practice for over 25 years is considering early retirement due to cash flow issues. She has begun to perform upgrades in the practice from her family´s personal finances. The electric bill has become overwhelming and insurance company reimbursement is quite sluggish. She plans to parlay her years of experience into a new career traveling, speaking, and writing about the so-called reform.
I was blessed with some skills and spent many years in school developing others. As the founding chairperson of The American Council of Women and Diversity in Medicine, Science, and Business (ACWD-MSB), I am meeting the challenge. Although I love the academic medical center with all of the hierarchy and bureaucracy, I am skilled at the grass roots level. I am passionate about diversity and you will soon understand the reason. Our experiences and backgrounds impact the way we view problems. I have witnessed many churches on the East Coast start with 14 members in the minister´s living room, and blossom into a 2000-member mega-church within 20 years. The proceeds from bake sales and Friday night fish dinners, complete with collard greens and potato salad, have financed many padded pews. I will not debate whether selling plate lunches is in accordance with various dogmatic views. I am simply sharing one technique for growth. As a spin-off from the old country church fundraisers, the professionals of ACWD-MSB, have embarked upon a 5-year capital improvement plan that will place dollars into the businesses of our members.
We cannot afford to see practices closing because of policy changes. Some groups have never benefited from government rules and regulations. You may call us naive if you choose, but we choose success irrespective of evolving government policies. We still vote and write to our representatives, but we subscribe to the philosophy of the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown. We ‘Open doors for ourselves’. Self’-sufficiency was practiced by my ancestors in America. My grandfather and great grandfather were successful farmers. They always encouraged our family members to be visionaries by providing jobs for themselves and someone else.
The members of our organization work tirelessly to advance women and other disadvantaged entrepreneurs. We work our 12- and 16-hour shifts teaching, practicing and performing cutting edge research; meet the needs of our families and raise funds through creative means. We are changing the face of medicine and medical education. We have accepted the challenge and hope you will join us.
Danna McKellar, Ph.D, MBA