Here we are in the thick of a pandemic. Our state is reopening its economy, and fortunately the COVID-19 case numbers and deaths in Massachusetts are on a downward trend, while many other states’ infections are still rising. We have learned so much about SARS-CoV-2 and pandemic preparedness, yet there is much more to learn as we face this moving target with minimal ammunition.
Family physicians have invaluable training and scope of practice, both in screening for and treating this coronavirus, and a more widespread role in mitigation through patient education, advice, and guidance. Despite our vital role and relevance, our livelihoods are threatened in this pandemic economy, due to the payment structure of our healthcare system. Many have taken the charge to invest in telemedicine, which has shown its virtues and limitations in trying to maintain remote care of our patients, and now we embark on another learning curve as we attempt to reopen our offices safely.
Another global public health crisis has emerged, as COVID-19 has shown a spotlight on how systemic racism has driven an increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection in Black and Latino patients, in addition to racial disparities in healthcare and law enforcement. As family physicians who care for all aspects of our patients’ health as well as our communities as a whole, we must acknowledge these socioeconomic factors and the inequities that adversely affect our patients’ health. The MAFP Public Health Taskforce will be charged with examining and addressing these issues, in alignment with the AAFP statement condemning all forms of racism , and the academy initiatives urging the White House to declare racism a public health emergency.
Locally, our MAFP chapter is also actively involved in supporting Governor Baker’s legislation H4143 to increase financial investment in primary care and behavioral health by 30% over 3 years, and in promoting an Act Advancing and Expanding Access to Telemedicine H991, and S612.
If these bills pass, it will help our practices thrive, and allow us to continue to serve our patients with more access to care, more behavioral health support, and will substantially reduce barriers to care.
Although our MassAFP Annual Meeting & Spring Refresher was a “victim of the pandemic,” we are actively conducting virtual meetings and are looking toward new virtual educational opportunities for our members.
Because we missed out on the opportunity to publicly acknowledge and celebrate some exceptional family physicians, please join me in congratulating our 2020 Family Physician of the Year, Dr. Jeffrey Geller, our 2020 Family Medicine Educator of the Year, Dr. Mary Ann Dakkak, and Dr. Randy Wertheimer who was inducted into our Preceptor Hall of Fame.
Family medicine may be at a critical crossroad of being exactly what our patients need in this time of public health need, yet we must secure the future of our specialty as we face financial and systemic insecurities and continue to find ways to serve our patients in the new normal. We need your input and we are here to help. Let’s all roll up our sleeves together for family medicine and for the patients of Massachusetts.
Stay safe and stay involved,
Michele C. Parker, MD, FAAFP