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At the Forefront: GME Funding and Public Health

The Chicago Medical Society kicked off the 2013-2014 year on Sept. 10, with complimentary CME followed by the quarterly Council meeting. As the CMS governing body, the grassroots Council is the starting point in Illinois for many new legislative initiatives.

The evening began with a lecture by Daniel H. Angres, MD, on rising levels of stress and burnout within the medical profession. As health care delivery evolves, placing extraordinary demands on physicians, CMS wants to make members aware of the solid infrastructure of resources at their disposal. Starting next month, each issue of Chicago Medicine will feature a physician wellness Q&A authored by Dr. Angres. CMS also formed a new ad hoc Physician Wellness Committee, chaired by Dr. Angres, to help members access services and support.

Dr. Angres is medical director of Presence Behavioral Health Addiction Services and adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

He emphasizes that today’s treatment philosophy is a far cry from the punitive attitude of the past. “Physicians have very good outcomes for addiction and other mental disorders,” Dr. Angres said. “We can’t afford to drive these problems underground.” (See Dr. Angres’ profile on page 32 of the October Issue of Chicago Medicine)

UIC Dean Talks GME Funding

Guest speaker Dimitri Azar, MD, had the honor of being elected as District 6 Trustee, representing Chicago’s Medical District. Dr. Azar, who is a professor of ophthalmology and head of the College of Medicine at UIC, is the first dean to assume a leadership position at CMS.

“He’s one of us,” CMS President Dr. Robert W. Panton said in his welcome to Dr. Azar.

This internationally recognized surgeon had an urgent plea for Council members: contact your legislators about lifting the cap on sponsored residency positions. The growing number of newly minted MDs who cannot match into residency programs is a big problem for society at large, Dr. Azar emphasized.

The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 limited the number of residency slots to 94,000. Since then, the U.S. population has grown by more than 50 million. As the population ages, the number of Americans over 65 will likely surge by 36% in the next decade.

Not long ago, Dr. Azar learned about CMS’ strong legislative advocacy programs, and support for the academic community.

By mid-summer CMS had arranged for Dr. Azar to fly to Washington, DC, with Dr. Panton at his side. The fact that CMS made all meeting arrangements allowed Dr. Azar to concentrate on his message to lawmakers.

Several critical legislative proposals before Congress (HR 1201, S 577, and HR 1180) would add 15,000 Medicare-funded GME positions to the current 94,000.

All three bills have been endorsed by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

CMS also spearheaded a joint letter from Illinois’ medical school deans and major medical societies urging legislators to act quickly, Dr. Azar told the Council. Each member of Illinois’ congressional delegation received a copy.

Outdoor Adult Playground Initiative

On the public health front, CMS endorsed a new national fitness concept, calling upon officials in Chicago and Cook County to implement the initiative in every neighborhood.

Outdoor adult playgrounds have sprung up across the U.S. with support from the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization. Both CMS and the Building a Healthier Chicago coalition are working to promote the playgrounds to aldermen and county officials. CMS leaders recently met with Ald. Michele Smith who is pushing for an outdoor adult exercise facility in her Lincoln Park neighborhood.

The village of Tinley Park launched the first Chicago-area adult playground in 2010—at a cost of $23,000. A children’s playground, on the other hand, can run up to $100,000.

Residents in low-income, densely populated neighborhoods stand to benefit most of all. Patients without the means to join health clubs can use the facilities to stay in shape or continue rehab programs after insurance runs out. Equipment is designed for all fitness levels, including those with handicaps or disabilities.

In asking CMS to support the initiative, member Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD, called the playgrounds a population-based solution to obesity and chronic disease. She adds that short-term aerobic exercise (4-12 months) is associated with overall increases in brain and hippocampal volumes on neuroimaging scans.   

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