By Cynthia Hegg Krueger, MD – President WCMS and Staff Pathologist VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
In recent years, the Washtenaw County Medical Society teeters on retaining our third district director on the MSMS Board. This is just one example of how membership numbers affect the representation and your voice in organized medicine. As has been said many times, there is strength in numbers. At this juncture, I think some exploration of the current concept and benefits of membership are in order.
Membership is a basic human need. Abraham Maslow, a pioneer in the field of psychology, purported the need to belong was a major source of human motivation. He identifies it as one of the basic human needs, along with the physiologic needs, safety, self-esteem, and self-actualization.
Physicians, as a group, tend to be ruggedly independent types, but in these rapidly changing economic times, I believe we need to carefully reevaluate the benefits of physician membership in organized medicine. The current trend is that, more and more, physicians are in employed arrangements rather than independently owned practices. We need to reevaluate the advantages that large physician groups, dare I say labor unions, hold for us. Such large organizations have as one of their core responsibilities the pursuit of the interests of their members. What groups to which you belong promulgate the best interests of physicians in general, professionally, politically, and economically? We all belong to various professional organizations, which provide academic and specialty-directed political support. But, in this regard, and in this day and age, size matters, and the banding together of physicians from all specialty areas is a worthwhile asset.
So, with that, how are WCMS, MSMS, and the AMA best able to give their members better bang from their bucks than any other physician group(s) to which a doc can belong today?
We all know the elephant in the room…. “money talks.” Those who tend to gain in the political system donate $$ to those who are in a position to write legislation advancing their causes. A prime example just hit us three years ago – the financial sector had systematically lobbied the US Congress for the last several decades to pass laws allowing the greedy activity that occurs on Wall Street to be legal. They developed a large and financially powerful lobby organization to accomplish this. For additional details, I refer you to a recent documentary film, “Inside Job.” We, as physicians, need to value this important venue of influence. I recall reading the statistic that for every $7 a doctor gives to lawmakers; a lawyer gives $1000. It behooves all of us to finance some degree of political activity. If you are unable to sit on the board at the AMA, MSMS, or WCMS, that’s fine, but subsidize that lack of involvement with your dollars. Give as generously as you can to these groups so they can exert influence on your behalf. At the very least, part of your membership dues to organized medicine will be used for advancing the group’s political agenda.
However, it really isn’t ALL about how much $$ you have to throw at the cause. How about our current president’s, Mr. Obama, meteoric rise to the presidency in 2008 on the groundswell of a grassroots movement? Many citizens went online and donated $5, $10, $25, or $50, and look what happened? Membership in the larger physician organizations provides information for you to become politically active, which can be as simple as visiting the MSMS Action Center link online to contact your legislator with your opinion on a matter. When legislators get a volume of response about a particular issue, it influences them. For practice, go to the MSMS Action Center online and encourage our state lawmakers to vote against the bill that would repeal Michigan’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law. You can also call Governor Snyder’s constituent phone line (517-335-7858), and voice your opinion regarding the bill proposing the repeal of this lifesaving and money saving law. As long as we live in a democratic society, where we all get a vote, this will continue to be the case.
As events continue to change our current realities as physicians, I hope you agree that membership in the larger collective organization benefits physicians and ultimately their patients. So help by encouraging your colleagues to become members of WCMS and MSMS and renew your membership. (Contact Sallie Schiel, WCMS Executive Director, at 734-668-6241 or firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance in becoming a member.)