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How I became a physician activist — and how you can, too

 
By Hal Scherz, MD

Hal Scherz

Hal Scherz, MD, President Doctors4PatientCare

I share this story not to pat myself on the back for my success in advocacy, but rather to excite you about what’s possible. Two years ago I didn’t know the first thing about advocacy; I knew nothing about starting an organization to advance a cause. I knew that I was smart, passionate, relentless, and tireless and I knew that if I didn’t do everything that I could to stop something that I thought was so thoroughly wrong, I could no longer look at myself in the mirror. I would no longer have any right to complain. And I certainly wouldn’t know what I would say to my (not-yet-born) grandchildren, if one day they asked me what I did to stop the destruction of our healthcare system. As a result, I now devote about 25-30 hours a week, without compensation, to a cause that must be fought for by doctors.

Finding My Cause.

Shortly after Obama was elected President, it became clear that his plan for healthcare reform was flawed. He positioned the situation as if there were only offered two viable choices: the status quo or his plan. I vowed to become active in dispelling the misinformation and in stopping this dangerous agenda.

Reality Check.

First, I looked for groups already doing advocacy on behalf of doctors. I found no group that shared my position or bore my message. Frustrated, I spoke with my Congressman, Dr. Tom Price, who’s also a colleague and friend. When I told him I wanted to start a group that would stop Obamacare, he strongly encouraged me.

Scouting the Terrain.

Meanwhile, talk radio hosts were baffled. Why weren’t doctors speaking out? Some radio hosts had taken shows on the road—I went to listen to Hugh Hewitt, Bill Bennet and Dennis Prager when they came to Atlanta. Their question was the same: Where were the doctors on Obamacare? This was the impetus I needed to finally get going.

Rally

Getting Started.

In April, 2009, I invited 40 people to my office to meet with Congressman Price. Our compelling arguments opened their check books and created a core of political activists. My group, Georgia Urology, pledged $40,000 and the others gave $1000 each. And with that, Docs 4 Patient Care was born.

Our Mission: We are an organization of concerned physicians committed to the establishment of a health care system that preserves the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, promotes quality of care, supports affordable access to all Americans, and protects patients’ freedom of choice.

That night we created a website, engaged a lawyer to incorporate us, and began recruiting doctors to become concerned citizens and join our cause. The goal at that time was quite simple—to stop Obamacare. The way to do this, I believed, was to inform people about how bad this really was. The only ones speaking about healthcare publicly at the time were policy wonks and talking heads, not doctors. No one had the information about healthcare that we had, but nevertheless, thousands of “experts” had suddenly emerged. I thought that if people were informed through the media and through real doctors in real offices taking care of real patients, they would be outraged and could tie up the switchboard of the Capitol, demanding their representatives kill this bill. If only it were so easy!

At the same time, the Tea Party was hatching from its fledgling state into a now-historical force. Their plan was in sync with ours—the momentum was growing and we weren’t alone. I made the rounds with radio shows. Hugh Hewitt loved that we had finally answered the collective call to action, and things began to take off for Docs 4 Patient Care.

We co-sponsored several rallies in Washington. We grew our membership. We created a second version of our website. We made YouTube videos. We picked up a PR firm and began appearing on radio and television. In a few short months we appeared on over 250 nationally-syndicated and regional radio shows. Our opinion piece was published in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times. It raced through the internet in publications such as Human Events, American Thinker, Real Clear Politics, and Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government.

We challenged the AMA, which had sold out doctors and patients to retain their proprietary financial rights to the healthcare coding system! Doctors in this country have the worst representation in the world, partly because it’s illegal for doctors to get together and organize, lest we be charged with collusion and anti-trust. But another reason is because doctors are notorious for failing to work together, while at the same time, deluding themselves into believing that our specialty societies or state and local medical societies are actually able to protect our collective interests and the interests of our patients.

We have forged relationships with Congressmen and Senators and regularly communicate with them and discuss policy. In fact, in November 2010, we were able to get one of our own members, Dr. Dan Benishek from Michigan, elected to Congress from District 1 to replace Bart Stupak. Docs4PC is now asked to weigh in on healthcare-related legislation and help with policy. Strategic partnerships with healthcare policy think tanks around the country and sponsorships of healthcare symposia have also since emerged.

Hal Scherz

Medical students and residents are being indoctrinated by teachers who have an ideology very different from many doctors in practice around the country. We now work with the Benjamin Rush Society, a medical school organization comprised of students who believe in free market solutions to problems, over government solutions. We help them develop chapters in medical schools without the fear of threats from some of their teachers.

I never thought I would become a physician activist. But here I am. There is so much more to tell and so much more that is yet unwritten. Our goal this year is to develop state chapters across the entire country, in order to prepare for 2012 and beyond.

That’s why I am a supporter of Expediting the Inevitable. Many parts of the healthcare system need transformation, and I know from experience that you can help make that happen. Doctors need to make our healthcare system as good as it can be. I am married to an eye surgeon and I most emphatically believe that tapping into the workforce of women physicians is a high priority for the better health of us all.

Video: http://docs4patientcare.org/welcome

One Note

  1. In the longer term, there’s also the quiosetn of test availability. Several months ago, I heard a commentator (IIRC, Mark Steyn) make the claim that there are more MRI machines in one American city (IIRC, Philadelphia) than in all of Canada. MRI machines are expensive and so are the operators. I don’t know if the claim is true but it does give me pause.Under government run health care, one way to lower costs is to cut back on the availability of expensive technology like CT machines, MRIs, and perhaps even better mammogram technology. As existing machines become unsupportable, they may not be replaced. That becomes a defacto means of rationing health care.

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