by Dave Chaney
The Tennessee Medical Association House of Delegates held its annual meeting in Nashville on Saturday, April 29.
For some, the House might look like an archaic and irrelevant exercise, with its parliamentary procedures, resolutions and congressional-like caucuses. To be fair, the first TMA annual meeting was 182 years ago and in some ways it still functions the same.
But for the approximately 140 doctors who participated this year, the House of Delegates is the single most effective forum to debate and set policies about important healthcare issues in our state and nation.
If physicians cannot achieve some resolution on common goals in this kind of setting, then where?
If not now, in the fast-moving, ever-changing and increasingly complex healthcare climate, then when?
If not for open exchange of ideas and spirited debate, then how will the medical professional come together to represent the best interests of its doctors and their patients?
The level of engagement during the House of Delegates this year shows that Tennessee physicians want and need an effective forum to address real issues facing their profession, and their patients. And while passionate physicians don’t always agree, they understand and appreciate the value of working together through their state medical association to find common ground and take appropriate action.
If only Congress worked so smoothly!
The delegates who represented their counties at the House spoke for more than 9,000 TMA member physicians across the state. They are pediatricians, family practitioners, cardiologists, oncologists, psychiatrists and other specialists. They are solo practitioners, institutional employees and everything in between.
They talked about tough and timely issues like the prescription drug abuse epidemic and scope of practice. They challenged each other on areas of differing opinions. They welcomed but ultimately struck down ideas that did not earn majority support. And they came together to pass policies that give lawmakers, regulators and patients a clear understanding of where doctors stand on the things that affect the practice of medicine and the delivery of patient care.
View a summary of the final actions of the House of Delegates at tnmed.org/hod.
While the House of Delegates meets only once a year, the policies it creates are carried out year round, in the halls of the state legislature and on Capitol Hill, in statements before regulatory bodies and in interactions with insurance companies, and in many other settings. They set the tone for the direction of the organization and, in some cases, directly impact healthcare for all Tennesseans.
Organized medicine works because large numbers of physicians actively participate in forums like the House of Delegates, volunteer their valuable time to serve on committees and in other leadership posts, and support the overall mission and purpose through membership. These are doctors who view their profession as more of a calling than a career. They embrace diversity, inclusion and collaboration because they know that it is the best – and sometimes only – way to get things done.
TMA membership has been on the rise the past two years, so it was not surprising but encouraging to see a notable increase in the House of Delegates last month compared to recent annual meetings. Professional engagement is alive and well. More physicians realize the importance of engaging in constructive dialogue with their colleagues, even when they don’t see eye to eye, and more group and hospital administrators are finding mutual value in strategic alliances with the state’s largest professional organization for doctors.
Imagine what could be accomplished if every Tennessee doctor was a TMA member with representation in the House of Delegates and what collective influence their policies would carry.
Physicians must continue to exercise a leading voice in important healthcare issues just as they serve as the leaders of the healthcare delivery team.