June 28, 2017

Challenges to Professionalism in a Time of ChangeI enjoyed attending the professionalism conference coordinated by the  Maine Medical Association and sponsored by VT, ME and NH professional societies on June 17. There were approximately 100 attendees discussing and learning about the challenges to professionalism in our current environment including EHRs, ethics of quality measures, and physician burnout.

The conference had a wonderful performance of “Side Effects”, a one actor play in which a physician who is under duress tries to make sense of his many challenges with his lawyer. Playwright and actor Michael Milligan portrayed an overextended, burned out primary care physician with precision and power. Although I have not experienced all of the issues his character was coping with, I felt kinship and less alone in my own struggle to balance patients, family, administration and the greater healthcare system.

One of other take-aways for me was a reading list to learn more about the American healthcare system. An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal unravels each component of the medical industry (pharma, hospitals, insurance, devices, foundations, doctors) and helps the reader to understand how the costs rose and how the components have taken advantage of the tax structure, laws, and the system as a whole. The book highlighted the problems with lack of cost transparency and how the big money for political campaigns inhibits true transformation as each component group pushes to maintain their status. Until we have campaign finance reform, I truly doubt there will be any political will for meaningful changes to healthcare.

Despite the stress of balancing it all and disappointment in the process of current congressional efforts to change the healthcare system, I (and many others) deeply enjoy my profession and the opportunities it provides. It is very easy to feel that we are too small or have nothing of value to say, but just by our position in society we can help to make meaningful change if we participate and keep trying. 


Deb Harrigan, MD

Please send comments and questions to president@nhms.org.