March 2024 President’s Message

March 2024 President’s Message

Healthcare advocacy, football and Taylor Swift

by Howard Chang, MD —

How many of you believe that 2024 will bring with it improved access to healthcare, better reimbursements for your practice and fewer nonclinical stressors? How many feel that healthcare in Wichita is improving year after year? How many of you are worried about our future? These are rhetorical questions, because we all know the answers, and this is precisely why it is so important we each get involved in healthcare advocacy at both the state and national levels.

On the night Taylor Swift’s team won the Super Bowl, I had the privilege of being in Washington, DC, to attend the AMA National Advocacy Conference with fellow MSSC members Drs. Estephan Zayat, Jany Moussa and Aron Fast. Along with MSSC Executive Director Phillip Brownlee, we met with legislators on Capitol Hill to discuss issues affecting healthcare in Kansas and nationally. Soaring on the high of our Super Bowl win, we strutted into congressional office after office demanding that they work to improve healthcare. OK, it wasn’t exactly “demanding,” but we did kindly ask them to support policy and bills that positively impact patient care and physician reimbursement. We discussed reversing the 2024 Medicare cuts, eliminating electronic fund transfer fees, covering remote monitoring devices for pregnant women on Medicaid, increasing Graduate Medical Education funding and more.

Two delightful quirks about our Kansas senators’ offices in DC:

  • Jerry Moran boasts a tremendously large buffalo head adorning his wall, affectionately named Dwight D. Bisonhower. Such a great name!
  • Roger Marshall, MD, proudly displays a giant Kansas City Chiefs flag on his front desk, visible to anyone passing through the halls.

Back when Taylor Swift was still only a country singer and I was still in residency, I knew very little about advocacy. It wasn’t something heavily emphasized or taught during residency. How little did I understand that politics (and money) are what make the world go round, and heavily influenced my ability to care for patients.

MSSC members Howard Chang, MD, Aron Fast, MD, Jany Moussa, MD, and Estephan Zayat, MD, met with the healthcare policy staff of the Kansas congressional delegation in Washington, DC, in February.

As a brand-new attending, my focus and goal were to take care of the patient in front of me. After all, we survived medical school to take care of patients, right? Well, healthcare advocacy is just that, but on a much larger scale. Instead of caring for that one patient in front of you, you can help care for thousands of patients or even more! You can also help prevent a lot of harm. I owe my introduction to advocacy to a remarkable colleague, Dr. John McMaster, a seasoned emergency physician. His extensive history of engaging with our elected officials to advocate for healthcare improvements in our community speaks volumes about his dedication. It’s no surprise that he also has directed much of his attention to enhancing medical education in Wichita through his work at the Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. If you need help finding your own John McMaster, let me know and I will be happy to connect you with an advocacy mentor.

At the Kansas Medical Society’s Advocacy Day in January, I experienced a mix of emotions. On one hand, I was elated to see such a high level of engagement among my colleagues. The conference room was so brimming with physicians that there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel saddened by the realization that so many doctors felt compelled to make the journey to Topeka to advocate for themselves and their patients. Similar to last year, Drs. McMaster and Angela Carrick also brought with them a cadre of medical students to expose them early on to advocacy in their budding careers. When you first mention having a meeting with a Kansas senator or representative, some people react as if you met with Travis Kelce. However, let me assure you that while they are admirable individuals, our lawmakers are regular people, albeit with a small office in Topeka. They want and need to meet with physicians to understand current healthcare issues and to allow us to guide them in serving their constituents. With a stroke of a pen or a raise of hand, these elected officials can either improve or potentially worsen healthcare across our state. This is why it’s imperative our voices are heard.

In our community, we’re fortunate to have physicians who excel not only in their specialties but also in advocacy. Dr. Kevin Hoppock stands out as the Patrick Mahomes of our MSSC Legislative Committee. He possesses exceptional eloquence, charisma and a deep reservoir of knowledge. In fact, he’s so impressive that I might suggest he run for office one day. If he did so, I’d gladly serve as the Andy Reid for his entire campaign.

Alongside Dr. Hoppock, numerous other MSSC members fight for enhanced patient care in our county. We owe these physicians a tremendous debt of gratitude for their selfless dedication to the cause. On behalf of the MSSC, I want to thank each one of you.

Go, Chiefs!