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A Message from the President
Sarit M. Patel, MD

Speech Delivered at the Annual Meeting of The Hartford County Medical Association
on the Occasion of His Installation as President of the Association (October 5, 2016)

HCMA President | Gwendolyn H. Moraski, MDFirst and foremost, I’d like to thank to thank Kevin Watson for his tireless efforts this past year.  I’ve known Kevin for 10 years now and somehow he always has been a step ahead of me.  He was on the board of grove hill before me, the board of HCMA before me.    I've got 3 kids, and of course he has 4.   I’m barely able to make my son’s baseball games while Kevin is coaching his son's team to championships.  I don’t know how he does it, but I feel fortunate to call him a friend and can't wait to see what he does next.  HCMA owes him a debt of gratitude...Thank you Kevin.

I would also like to acknowledge our incoming officers, who are both OB/Gyn’s:  Natalie Achong as Vice President and Mario Cohen as Treasurer.  They both have an infectious energy and I am very much looking forward to working with them. 

Thank you for coming tonight to the annual meeting of the Hartford County Medical Association. This organization was chartered 224 years ago.  For perspective, other organizations created in 1792 include the US Postal service, US Mint and NY stock exchange. (not too shabby)   Initially, member physicians worked to establish a standard for licensure, compile a medical library and set codes of conduct.  Over two centuries the purpose and goals of the organization have evolved to meet evolving needs.   Today, it sometimes seems like adversity is just around every corner and some would say “the end is near.”  But it helps to be reminded that HCMA has been around a long time.  Perspective is important.   

For those who may not know me, my name is Sarit and perhaps a brief story would be descriptive. A few years ago my middle daughter was doing a first grade school project about reading. She had to interview a parent and I was available.  She asked me a number of questions about what kind of books I like to read, and how I got interested in reading.  The interview went on for about five minutes while she took notes. At the end she had an inquisitive look on her face and said “Daddy, did they have books when you were little?”  I informed her that they did in fact have books when I was little, just not as many as there are now. Perspective is everything.

I don’t often get a chance to thank my family and am happy to have the opportunity. My parents, my wife Lisa and our three children are here. They  put up with countless meetings, emails, and phone conferences, and I am grateful for their sacrifice.

I grew up in New Jersey as a Yankees fan.  After high school, I was accepted into a 6 year BA/MD program with Lehigh University and went to medical school at the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  This was followed by an intern year of general surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.  While there I met my wife Lisa who was working as a nurse.   At first she wanted nothing to do with me, but as she will tell you I can be stubborn and persistent.    Next was ophthalmology residency at NYU.  Here I got interested in oculoplastic surgery, which is plastic and reconstructive surgery around the eyes.   I ended up doing 2 fellowships:  a year studying ophthalmic pathology at the University of Wisconsin and two years in oculoplastic surgery at West Virginia University. Along the way Lisa and I married in New York, were fortunate enough to have our first child in WI, our second daughter in WV, and our son in Connecticut.  Three states, three kids.  Just for the record, I’m not planning on moving anytime soon...

After training, I accepted a position with the ophthalmology group at Grove Hill Medical Center.   My practice is just down the road, less than a mile from here in New Britain. Most doctors don’t find a home with their first practice, and I feel fortunate to have landed where I did. After working for a few years, I felt comfortable with my medical skills, but was confused about being a small business owner.   Human resources, managing employees, and profit and loss statements were lost on me. I was always someone who needed organized learning, and so I pursued an MBA through the University of Massachusetts. 

I’m looking forward to this upcoming year but I anticipate it won’t be easy.  The practice of medicine today is about so much more than practising medicine. I think in part, this goes back about 50 years.  In July 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed H.R. 6675 into law.  Medicare and Medicaid were created.  At the time, a national study showed that 56 percent of Americans over the age of 65 were not covered by health insurance. That concept seems foreign now.   Since that time there has been gradual, steady and undeniable change in the practice of medicine. Modern medicine is big business, accounting for almost 18% of American GDP, over $3 trillion. Over these past 50 years doctors in general have focused on medicine, and delegated decision-making to non-physician administrators. Over time, however, some priorities in medicine have shifted away from physicians. In the future it's imperative for physicians to take leadership positions, be active in finding solutions, and advocate for the doctor-patient relationship.   This is what the Hartford County Medical Association signifies to me. Providing the venue and tools for physicians to develop into healthcare leaders. We don’t have all the answers, but we need to be part of the solution. 

For upcoming year, I believe the HCMA should have two areas of focus:  advocacy and engagement. 

First, advocacy. For better or worse, state and federal government plays a large role in the practice of medicine as both payor and regulator. We must develop and maintain strong relationships here. Our task is twofold.  First, we must have robust internal discussions about current issues in medicine, such as value based care, telemedicine, payment models, and health care access.    We have to communicate and maybe even argue amongst ourselves to generate consensus. This internal dialogue is vital. Second, we communicate that agenda to our legislators. HCMA can facilitate this by creating open discussions during board meetings and special events, and communicating and coordinating with CSMS, specialty societies, and other stakeholders.  Within Hartford county we fortunately have three physicians running for state legislature this year and I’m grateful that they’re able to join us tonight. Current House Representative Dr. Prasad Srinivasan from Glastonbury, former HCMA President Dr. William Petit from Plainville, and Dr. Saud Anwar from South Windsor.  Thank you for your efforts.  As part of promoting advocacay, on November 29, HCMA will be hosting a breakfast for our members and newly elected  legislators to meet.  More details to follow, but I invite you all to come. 

A second area of focus is engagement. Physicians have busy practices and lives, and getting them engaged in organized medicine can be challenging. No one person or small group of people will be able to do the work needed.  Over the next year, HCMA will explore new ways to reach out. One example of this is the resident research prize.    Residents are perhaps the busiest doctors of all, balancing clinical and educational duties. Acknowledging and rewarding their research efforts is important on its own, but maybe it can also be an introduction for them to HCMA and organized medicine.   Engagement is also about personal relationships. I was “strongly encouraged” to join the HCMA board of directors by Earle Sittambalam, who many of you know, and without that encouragement I would not be here today. One of the great resources of HCMA is the collective wisdom of members, especially life members. HCMA is developing a mentorship directory to promote the development of these vital personal relationships. 

Finally, for over 200 years there has been a need for local physicians to organize themselves, discuss the practice of medicine, vent frustrations, and collectively plan for improvements. As Aristotle said,  “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  Together, as physicians, we are stronger than individuals.  Thank you.