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Advocating for You

CMS arranges for lawmakers to shadow and learn from physicians

By Elizabeth Sidney

This section highlights the Chicago Medical Society’s ongoing conversations with local, state and national legislators. Coordinated by President Kenneth G. Busch, MD, our advocacy programs come in many formats and span the Chicago City Council to Washington’s Capitol Hill.

Mini-Internship Program

CMS works to educate policymakers and lawmakers on multiple fronts. One of the most popular methods is through the CMS Mini-internship Program, which matches physicians and legislators for a day of learning. By shadowing physicians as they make rounds, see patients in the clinic or perform surgery, lawmakers can observe the impact of their decisions on the practice of medicine. Mini-internships also provide physicians with input from other sectors concerned with health care.

The goal of every mini-internship is to educate participants on the realities of practicing medicine. Since September, CMS has hosted seven mini-internships, with two more scheduled in December.

Here are highlights:

Advocate Christ Hospital

State Senator Bill Cunningham got to observe cardiothoracic surgery on Oct. 20, when Antone Tatooles, MD, inserted a mechanical heart into a patient. Dr. Tatooles used part of the day-long mini-internship to highlight the impact of the 30-day readmit penalty. Many patients readmitted to Advocate Christ Hospital have other co-morbidities, he explained to Senator Cunningham, and these conditions are often the reason for the patient’s readmission to the hospital.

The day concluded with Senator Cunningham calling the mini-internship an eye-opening experience. He asked if CMS would arrange for him to spend time in the hospital’s ER, where the state senator hopes to continue learning about health care delivery issues.

Westlake Hospital

State Rep. Kathleen Willis spent hours shadowing Jonnelle C. Sweetner, MD, learning about the hospital and the challenges it faces. The Oct. 22 mini-internship gave Dr. Sweetner the chance to share her experiences both as a hospitalist and as a private practice physician. The lawmaker also toured various departments and met several of Dr. Sweetner’s patients. In addition to meeting the executive leadership team, Representative Willis was part of a discussion on how the hospital recently conducted a drill to see if intake staff could identify and properly handle a mock Ebola patient.

Ingalls Memorial Hospital

State Senator Napoleon B. Harris accompanied James A. Wallace, MD, and met with patients at his private practice on Nov. 11. Dr. Wallace gave an overview of his practice, discussed issues that are prevalent in his South Side community and the insurance barriers to providing care. The day included talks with senior executive leadership about funding issues and their impact on community care.

Midwest Center for Women’s Healthcare

State Rep. Laura Fine met with Cheryl E. Axelrod, MD, in her obstetrics and gynecology practice on Nov. 16. After giving an overview of her practice, Dr. Axelrod went on to describe the frustration of dealing with insurance companies and adapting to new systems. Representative Fine added her own personal experiences, and agreed that once a physician deems a treatment medically necessary, insurers should not deny claims.

Key Contacts Program

This new initiative complements the mini-internship format. Key contacts are individual physicians who work to establish a personal relationship with their legislative representatives. CMS provides support and training for program volunteers in all aspects of building and maintaining a relationship. Key contacts relay information about CMS’ position on specific bills, provide technical expertise, and report back to CMS. To date, 120 physician-members have signed on.

Networking Night a Hit with Students

The popular student social and networking event at Rock Bottom Brewery is a mainstay benefit that CMS regularly co-hosts with the Illinois State Medical Society. Students from the region’s seven teaching institutions last met on Sept. 5 to kick off the academic year. Another gathering is now in the works. Networking night encourages students to meet their peers at other medical schools and introduces them to the CMS leadership team. Over heavy appetizers and drinks, one lucky student always wins a raffle and goes home with a gift card. Student networking night also recruits new members and updates all participants on current CMS initiatives. Stay tuned for details on the next networking event.

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