Monday, May 23, 2011

A Free Man

I’m back.

Yep, I met with the Editor and they’ve decided to keep me on. So I’ll be writing this thing for another year. I guess that’s good, or bad depending on if you like the stuff I write, or not. This year will be a little different though, for the first time since I started stringing together words for the JOURNAL I’m unencumbered. Well, I’m still emcumbered by nutty thoughts that ping around in my brain, but what I mean to say is I’m not tied up by being on the board of trustees or the AMA delegation or anything official, so if I say stuff you don’t like you can’t hold it against State Medical. You’re welcome to hold it against me but you shouldn’t expect I’ll lose a lot of sleep at night just because you think I’m an idiot. I’m used to that. I have a whole family that thinks I’m an idiot from time to time.

The unencumbered stuff is only partly an accident, I guess. Most of it was my own doing. I did run to be re-elected to our rapidly diminishing AMA delegation…I lost, but I got to give one of the most fun to give campaign speeches I could ever imagine giving.

It was one of those things that comes to you when you’re driving a pretty long way, like Meridian to Tupelo, and you have time to let things roll around inside your head, getting bigger and bigger as you drive. Usually, after you get to wherever it is that you’re going, common sense takes over and you write a real speech, but I didn’t get that chance. See I’d had to run back home in the middle of the meeting to treat an emergency patient, an old friend, who had developed a spinal cord compression in the mid-thorasic spine. Not wanting them to be paralyzed from the waist down for what life they had left, there wasn’t a lot of choice. Anyway I got back to Tupelo, got out of the car and gave the speech, about that fast. Here it is, as best as I remember:

Our inaugural theme for this year is “A Night at the Races”, so in keeping with that theme, I’m going to talk about this election in racing terms. See, as far as medical politics goes, the AMA meeting is the Kentucky Derby. It’s our chance to shine in the national spotlight, and up to now we have. You, the Mississippi State Medical Association, are the riders, and we, the AMA delegation have been the horse that runs the race. Well, next year you’ve decided that it will be best for Mississippi to enter the Kentucky Derby riding on a two-legged pig.

By quitting the AMA you’ve left your delegation with only one delegate and one alternate delegate, the same size as the delegations from Puerto Rico, and the gay and transgender physician section.

So what this election is all about is deciding what two legs you think you need on that pig. Do you want a couple of hams? We surely have our share of hams on the delegation. We can harness the power of those hams and go plowing along through the dirt trying to get around that track. Maybe we need a couple of strong shoulders, we have plenty of those on the delegation too, a little more dignified perhaps. They can pull us along. Or maybe you all want one ham and one shoulder. We can try to find a way to balance ourselves and not fall over in the dirt.

None of these, I submit, is a good alternative. It is a shame is what it is. You want to tell me that the AMA doesn’t represent you, that the delegation isn’t important to you? Well the work of this delegation is directly responsible for you getting checks for 8.1% of your entire gross federally derived income last year. By fighting to require CMS to abide by the congressionally mandated geographic price correction we prevailed. That meant something to you. You put that money in your pocket. Nobody called to say, “I’m not taking this damned money, the AMA got it, and I don’t approve of the AMA.” Destroying this delegation, just to make a political point, when you’re benefitting from the work that it does is shortsighted and stupid.

My friends have told me that this is a suicide speech. If it is…then so be it. Somebody has to tell you the truth. If we get 1001 members of this association, one fourth of our members, to re-join the AMA at least we’d have two delegates and two alternates. While we still probably won’t win the Kentucky Derby on a four-legged pig, I’m betting we’ll eat a lot less dirt.

It was a great time. I got to pound on the lectern and point at people and tell the truth. Who could possibly ask for more?

The election turned out fine. We decided on two strong shoulders, Luke Lampton and Danny Edney. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome…unless, of course, those of you out there reading this listen to what it is I’ve said, and do what it’s going to take to get us a couple more legs to run on.

See ya next time,
One of the hams