Michigan State Medical Society > About MSMS > News & Media > Michigan Medicine Magazine > July-August 2020 > Physicians Adjust to New Realities; Answer the Call to Advocacy

Physicians Adjust to New Realities; Answer the Call to Advocacy

On March 10th, Michigan diagnosed it’s first case of COVID-19 and our lives changed in the blink of an eye. Physicians were called to the front lines to care for the sickest patients fighting for their lives on ventilators. Some were called to donate PPE and all but shut down their practices except for emergency cases. All have been drastically impacted in some way by this novel virus.

At MSMS, while physicians were expertly adjusting to their new realities in clinical practice, many also answered the call to advocacy. The team stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park.

On April 1, 2020, the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) called on eight physicians to participate in weekly calls with the Governor’s office to update key decision makers about the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. After working overnight shifts, balancing clinical practice with family life, and learning about this brand-new virus, our physician members showed incredible dedication to public service every single week. Their efforts paid off.

After weeks of building the physician voice in Lansing and making sure physicians on the frontlines, and the ones who were anxiously waiting to see patients again, had a voice, Dr. Mukkamala, President of MSMS, stood up with the Governor at a Press Conference on May 21, 2020, to announce the resumption of non-essential and elective procedures. The advocacy efforts by physician leaders at MSMS helped to inform policies, influence decision-makers, and ultimately allow patients to once again safely seek out care from their trusted physician partners.

Another strong voice for the Michigan State Medical Society came from Dr. Paul Bozyk, a critical care pulmonologist at Beaumont Royal Oak. He spent his days and nights in the ICU, caring for the sickest COVID-patients, while simultaneously worrying about the patients who were delaying care in his outpatient pulmonology clinic. His unique perspective became an invaluable resource when Senator Michael MacDonald introduced Senate Bill 899, legislation to add much needed liability protections into law for physicians who were responding to a novel virus and complying with executive orders that led to circumstances outside of the standard practice of Medicine. 

On May 13th, Dr. Bozyk testified before the House Committee on Judiciary. He shared his experiences both on the front lines and with delaying non-essential care pursuant to EO 2020-17, and explained the need for reform, not to protect bad actors but to protect physicians who were making decisions to save a human life. The havoc wrecked on medical practice from COVID-19 remains a stark reality for physicians statewide. His advocacy efforts helped decision makers understand the realities on the ground and the extent our physician community went to save lives. Thank you, Dr. Bozyk.

Physicians also sacrificed time daily to educate and update elected leaders across the state. Physician task forces were created to address the frontlines of COVID-19, re-engaging the economy, safe clinical practice, and financial relief for practices that saw massive reductions in patient visits and revenue. Over the course of 10 weeks, MSMS met with and educated over 20 elected officials and public policy makers. The physician voice reverberated through the halls of the Capitol, and MSMS physicians were sought out as the foremost experts on all-things COVID-19.

We couldn’t have done it alone. We also reached out to various stakeholders to better understand their industries, where there were synergies, and how we could be a united voice. Dr. Mukkamala stood up with Brian Calley, President of the Small Business Association of Michigan, and called for both economic health and public health. MSMS worked closely with Local Public Health and the University of Michigan School of Public Health to merge clinical education and observations with the science behind public health decision making. We worked with our partners in Health, from specialty societies, to advanced practices nurses, to dentists and physical therapists. And throughout, we stayed in touch with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, the voice of the infrastructure responding to COVID-19.

It was a busy spring at MSMS. One that no one could have anticipated. But as we look to the future, we are grateful to our physician leaders for giving the physician community a voice in Lansing and D.C.