President's Message: Peter Mansky, MD, April 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

We live in a time when state physician health programs (PHPs) are being challenged and have experienced turnover. On the other side of the equation, we can be grateful and proud of our gains in the past two decades.

In 1992, when I first became the medical director of the New York Physician Health Program, there were no principles or clinical guidelines to follow except those of good addiction or other psychiatric treatment. Very little in the medical literature specifically addressed physician health programs. Conversations with colleagues David Canavan, David Dodd, Bill Farley, Doug Talbott, Marty Doot, Gerry Summer, Roger Goetz, Lynn Hankes helped, but it was clear that we needed more interchange and opportunities to discuss our dilemmas and triumphs.

There were some discussions during American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) meetings, but it became evident that the best place to discuss issues concerning state physician health programs was the FSPHP. In 1994, a group of us representing state physician health programs met in Tennessee to refine the FSPHP bylaws. Our first national meeting consisted of about 15 to 20 attendees sitting around a table in a small conference room. It was modest, but it was a start.

We now have 10 times the attendance, meet in a larger area, and have support from the vendors we interact with daily. But we’re still a membership organization of state PHPs with associate members currently involved in the programs. We’ve lost invaluable members from our federation because they’ve left their state PHPs, retired, or left the field. Although Gary Carr, Susan McCall, Mick Oreskovich, Lynn Hankes, Ray Pomm, and James Jennings have left their state PHPs, other members, such as Penny Ziegler, have returned. Returning members, new members, and an excellent executive director have given the FSPHP new life.

Although our current members are all representatives from state PHPs, the board of directors asked the membership committee to recommend conditions and guidelines for individuals not presently associated with a state PHP to become members. On the basis of the committee’s report, the board has now directed the bylaw committee to draft language for an individual membership category for individuals who are not associated with state PHPs. While these members would not have a role in the governance of our federation, they would have other privileges. Considerations include granting access to our members-only website when it launches, which will include an area for posting questions. They would get the FSPHP newsletter and be able to attend our annual national meetings as well as area meetings, perhaps with a discount. Consideration for them to serve as consultants to our committees, but not as regular committee members, is under review. The current thought is to limit the number of consultants on any committee. Members in the new category would not have access to the listserv.

The individual membership category would include interested individuals, clinical members of rehabs or other clinical programs, as well as individuals who run other types of monitoring programs. All members in this category would be vetted and approved by the FSPHP Board of Directors. The cost of their membership would be the same as associate membership. This would allow talented individuals to interact with our regular membership and bring considerable new revenues to our federation.

I want to thank the membership committee for their work in the development of an individual membership category. Comments and suggestions concerning the new category are welcome. For more information, please contact representatives in your area who are on the FSPHP board.

— Peter A. Mansky, MD, DLFAPA
President, Federation of State Physician Health Programs
Executive Medical Director, Nevada Professionals Health Program