President's Message: Warren Pendergast, MD, March 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Working in the field of physician and general professional health is an honor, as well as tremendously rewarding and challenging. This has been my experience in North Carolina, and at the national level. Since being given the privilege of serving as your Federation President, I’ve become more acutely aware of the opportunities and challenges we face nationally. The opportunity to work with some incredibly dedicated and talented people in the Federation has also been greatly energizing.

Earlier this year, each FSPHP-member state received a list of our Federation’s accomplishments in 2012, as part of membership renewal. In reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to 2013, I want to focus on three areas that are critical to our future success: FSPHP administrative support, our work with other national organizations, and membership expansion.

The Federation has had a number of “growth opportunities” in the last several years. The biggest of which came in 2012, with the end of administrative support from the American Medical Association (AMA). As difficult as this has been, I believe it will prove to be a positive, watershed point in the history and development of the Federation. As a result of this external change, we’ve matured as an organization, reviewed our own administrative structure, and taken steps to become more self-sufficient and politically independent.

Towards this end, in order to replace the services provided by the AMA, the FSPHP Board of Directors voted to sign an administrative services contract with the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), effective January 2013. The MMS subsidiary Physician Health Services, Inc., will provide administrative support to FSPHP leadership, members, and to our Executive Director Jon Dougherty. As I’ve noted on the listserv, we are truly fortunate to have Debbie Brennan and Jessica Vautour join the FSPHP family.

Two other important projects in 2012 were our work with the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Advocacy for recovering physicians and other professionals has become increasingly complex since the “physician health” movement first started. In 2013, a medical license is necessary to practice medicine, but not sufficient in and of itself to earn a living. Credentialing decisions by specialty boards, health insurers, and other entities now effectively determine an individual licensee’s ability to practice. This has made FSPHP’s national work with FSMB and ABMS critically important to our individual and collective missions.

In October, Carole Hoffman and Lynn Hankes represented FSPHP in the ABMS Disciplinary Alert Notices (DANs) workgroup in Chicago. The meeting went very well, and represented an important first step in working with individual specialty boards to allow continued certification for licensees under board orders requiring PHP monitoring. The next step is for the Federation to reach out to the specialty boards individually, and encourage them to see PHP monitoring in a positive light.

A related effort, and an outgrowth of our continued relationship with the FSMB, was FSPHP participation on the Special Committee on Reentry for the Ill Physician. Lynn Hankes and Michael Gendel were invited to the committee meeting in October, as well. They continue to participate in this initiative, which looks like it will result in a FSMB document that is very supportive of physician health and rehabilitation. This dovetails very well with the ABMS workgroup agenda, and I’m optimistic that their work will provide significant dividends at the national and state levels.

Another area of focus for 2012 was membership expansion. It has been difficult to strike a balance between maintaining our core identity in physician health, and reaching out to potential members who can help us grow in new directions. The Membership and Bylaws Committees put in many hours discussing how to achieve this balance, while also protecting ourselves from possible ethical dilemmas as a result of our expansion. By offering membership to others who work in professional health, we’ll not only be providing the benefit of our experience, but benefitting from a new infusion of energy and perspective for our Federation, as well.

Our steadfast progression in the areas of administrative support, work with other national organizations, and membership expansion owes a debt of gratitude to Jonathan Dougherty for his continued leadership as our executive director and the countless hours of dedication by our committee chairs and members. 

We’re sure to have another great meeting this year, and I welcome you to join us in Boston. Please let a board member or me know via phone, email, or in person if you have any input or thoughts on the event or any other FSPHP business!

— Warren Pendergast, MD 
President, Federation of Physician Health Programs
Medical Director, North Carolina Physicians Health Program