Strength and Progress Through Unity


Wilson_edited-1(30.07.13)  "My focus this year will be strength and progress through unity”. With those words W. Alan Harmon, MD set the mark for his year as president of the Florida Medical Association (FMA) in his inaugural address July 27 at the annual meeting of the FMA in Orlando, Florida, U.S.

 As I indicated in my July 25 blog, it was my privilege to serve as Parliamentarian for the House of Delegates at this meeting and see my friend Dr. Harmon installed. The FMA’s press release described him as a physician “known to his colleagues as a dedicated physician leader who has made many contributions to organized medicine. Dr. Harmon has served the medical profession at the county, state and national levels and is committed to making Florida a better place for physicians to practice medicine.”

W. Alan Harmon, MD, President of the Florida Medical Association and wife Joan
W. Alan Harmon, MD
President, Florida Medical Association and wife Joan

 The U.S. health system reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, was passed three years ago. The law is the culmination of a century of efforts to respond to the need for universal health care for America’s citizens. It was the result of recognition, documented in peer-reviewed literature, that the tens of millions of people in America without health insurance are at greater risk of living sicker and dying sooner. It was recognition that those tens of millions who now have insurance are at risk of losing that insurance because of increasing costs. It was a response to a need to control rising costs while preserving and improving the quality and safety of health care.

 But as we were reminded during the debate over health system reform, change is difficult. Accepting change regarding a subject that is so personal as is health care is at times excruciatingly hard. Even as we recognize that the present system is not working well, Americans are still divided over the solution provided in the new law. Not surprisingly this division has expressed itself also among those closely involved working in the health care system, the physician community. And in my state of Florida this difference of opinion has been especially pronounced.

 In his inaugural speech Dr. Harmon addressed the reality of division and the need for unity.  He harked back to a time when the U. S. faced a challenge to its very existence, the War Between the States. He recalled Lincoln’s Gettysburg address about preserving the Union and the price of freedom; and an earlier Lincoln speech known as the “House Divided Speech” in which he quoted from the Bible: ‘And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”.

 Dr. Harmon went to say: “Today, the vision of a unifying mission is lacking in our nation’s capital. And when we focus on health care, we all understand that there are tens of millions of American without healthcare insurance coverage, and that America spends more money per capita than any other country in the world on healthcare. Washington’s politics and politicians are failing our country on this as well as many other issues.”

 “I sense a movement of physicians separating into various interest groups as economic forces are exerted on us all. We have all taken an oath to have loyalty to our patients and to our colleagues. My focus this year will be ‘Strength and Progress Through Unity’. External and internal forces will try to split our organizations asunder, but we must all resist having the House of Medicine divided. I have started a process of contacting the executives of the various county medical societies regarding our need to work together and I have been greatly encouraged by their response.”

Alan, I am greatly encouraged by your response and vision. I look forward to the leadership you will provide during the coming year.

WMA President Cecil. B. Wilson, MD travels around the world talking about the WMA's work representing the millions of physicians worldwide. Acting on behalf of patients and physicians, the WMA endeavors to achieve the highest possible standards of medical care, ethics, education and health related human rights for all people. This blog will chronicle these travels and important issues.