AMA chief notes doctor shortage

By PATRICIA NORRIS
http://www.masslive.com

American Medical Association President-elect Dr. Ronald M. Davis breezed through Hampden County yesterday, addressing physicians, students and business leaders on preventive medicine and health insurance for the uninsured.

Davis, who was the guest of the Hampden District Medical Society, made stops at Baystate Medical Center, Springfield College, Holyoke Medical Center and a Kiwanis Club lunch at the Springfield Hilton Garden.

Davis, a preventative medicine specialist from Michigan’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, outlined with a power-point presentation during the lunch his association’s plan to get at least 94 percent of the American public covered by health insurance through tax credits and insurance reform.

“We hope to get a congressional hearing on it,” said Davis, who will commence a one-year term as association president in June.

About 47 million Americans have no health insurance, and eight out of 10 of those uninsured work, he said.

In addition to improving the uninsured issue, the association is working toward reforming the way physicians are reimbursed by Medicare and curbing high malpractice insurance rates which make it prohibitive for many doctors to practice medicine.

Davis said that among the top concerns he heard from Western Massachusetts physicians is the shortage of primary care physicians. He said that many young people who go into medicine gravitate toward becoming specialists because of higher pay.

“Those positions are more attractive when you come out of medical school $110,000 to $120,000 in debt,” he said. “We need to relieve this debt by giving better financial aid or interest-free loans.”

Davis said there is also a struggle every year to maintain federal funding for primary care physician training.

“We need that, and we need to increase it,” he said.

Davis spoke about the primary care physician crisis to students at Springfield College earlier in the day. Physical therapy major Ross M. Craig said he was inspired by Davis’s talk, because he offered suggestions on how other medical professionals could assist physicians in the future.

Craig learned that physical therapists could help in the country’s obesity epidemic by offering advice on treatment plans for exercise and other things that would complement work primary care physicians are doing.

“Everything can be more well managed,” he said.

At the Kiwanis lunch, Davis had the 50-plus crowd laughing but reflecting on the consequences Americans face because of their inactive lifestyles. He showcased television commercials sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons depicting overweight, sedentary people using remote controls and riding mowers to the detriment of their health.

Obesity causes high blood pressure, heart disease, and other ailments, he noted.
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