As I leave Washington, DC on this overcast evening, I’m struck by the sense of hope that fills me. Seeing the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery below me reminds me of those moments in history when America has changed its course, altering our futures. Certainly, having just attended Doctors for America’s first ever leadership conference has much to do with my feelings.
We are at a critical juncture in history. Our health care system is doomed. We are providing care to less and less people, at a lower quality and for far more money than is sustainable.
Our choices are clear. The weak and fearful suggest we should make a few tweaks to the system. Perhaps try to let the free markets do their magic and hope for the best. The strong and brave suggest this is the moment to fundamentally change the way we deliver health care in America.
This moment is different because the natural stewards of our health care system have realized a responsibility. We, as physicians, recognize that the time for change is now. The Affordable Care Act became law because of unprecedented efforts by hundreds of thousands of physicians – including myself. We recognize the ACA is a framework through which we can find innovative ways to make our delivery and access to care better.
My role in this historic moment is not one I could have predicted. I entered medicine on a set trajectory, as I was born to Indian immigrants. Their dream was realized in me. I have practiced medicine for the past 10 yrs. I immensely enjoy the work I do- improving people’s lives in a tangible way. But sometime we all get lost in the minutiae of daily life and practice. We develop a sense of apathy- a sense that no matter what we do, nothing will change. I realized 3 years ago that I had a yearning to do more. To make my piece of the world a better place. This feeling is not unique to me. I have recognized it in many colleagues.
DFA was a concept born in conference room in Boston 3 years ago. These were young physicians at the start of their careers who already recognized this yearning among physicians. They boldly suggested that if given the opportunity and channels through which to affect change, physicians would rise to the occasion. They were right & I thank them for that vision.
This conference was a culmination and celebration of an amazing journey. DFA has 15,00 physician and medical student members (and counting).We count docs from red states, blue states and even purple states amongst our ranks. We are bound together by our sense that as a nation, we can do better for our people.
Our members have written hundreds of lte’s, educated thousands of people on health reform, lobbied hundreds of legislators, and given hundreds of interviews. These are ordinary doctors and medical students, like me, doing extraordinary things. We have empowered thousands of physicians to step outside of the practice of medicine and to realize their unknown potential to affect change.
The conference was full of powerful speakers like Dr. Don Berwick and Dr. Hahrie Han- to name a few. Senator Tom Daschle reviled us with anecdotes from his long career in DC. He reminded us of the unimportance of party affiliation, but the importance of working constructively together to create innovative solutions to our nation’s problems.
As MLK said after marching from Selma to Montgomery, Al in 1965 ‘…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. ‘ I know that DFA is collectively and successfully bending that arc a little bit, every day.
What I’ll remember the most from this conference is the feeling of family. We all share a deep sense of purpose. We all know that to create a better, more equitable health care system, we all have to be involved.
Entering the conference was like coming home.