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09/18/2017

Message from the MSHO President

Why we must Advocate

 To MSHO members:

I write this on the heels of another successful MSHO annual meeting.

I must say, from my vantage point, meeting operations went well. The venue was right, the weather cooperated, all the presentations were delivered without a hitch and we finished before the big UM/MSU football game (not so good for my team). The breadth and range of topics was beyond what I might have imagined for a state oncology society. And the speakers were all first rate, of national and international reknown.  Our dinner address from Dr Olopade, who could not have been more engaging, was inspirational.

During the economic and regulatory session which focused on advocacy, we were blessed to hear from a brave patient advocate, the mother of a young child with cancer, and it was her talk that left me near tears several times as I listened. Her comments and observations were poignant and should have been able to cut through any personal reservations any one of us may have about advocacy. Advocacy is one of the key components of MSHO mission and yet that which makes many of us uncomfortable - so much so that it is easy to shy away from the chance to speak out on behalf of our patients.

I recently did an experiment with myself after talking to a patient about his prognosis. I quickly calculated that if I live to the age of the average life expectancy of a white man in the US in 2017 (76.3 years), that I have about 6200 days left to live. Kind of morbid, I know. When I think about the number of days left in my term as president of MSHO it is only 348. Now both of those figures may seem like a lot to some of you, but not to me.  And by viewing these terms in those units, my own sense of urgency is increased. And that is my point here. Aurora's mom and dad did not and will not get to bask in what should be a near - limitless future for their daughter.  They will carry the worry about her for the rest of their days, even if she is lucky enough to be cured (and let's hope she is). Their struggle is and must be our struggle, too. And in fact for many of us it may turn out that we are in essence, advocating for ourselves, since we are aging and at increasing risk for the same illnesses we are asked to treat. Calculate your predicted number of days and you might see your own life's opportunities and priorities differently.  Understanding my finite number of days, even if my calculations are off, adds to my own desire to be a catalyst for change.

Complacency and denial of the finiteness of our opportunities is perilous and antithetical to our mission in my opinion. And as health care providers for some of the sickest people in our communities, and therefore as vanguards against policies which would threaten to dismantle the protections the ACA established for the health of millions of Americans, we must be resolute in our position as advocates. And so, I ask you once again, to engage - with your representatives, with your society, with your patients and their families, with whomever you must, to continue this struggle. You are not alone in this - MSHO has been and will continue to be your voice, but others must hear you as well. Do it for the many Auroras out there. Do it for yourselves. Your days are numbered.