William L. Rich III, MD
I was honored and humbled in June of this year when the Academy's Board of Trustees put forward my name as the nominee for president-elect. After completing my residency at Georgetown University in 1976, I joined Thomas Frey, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist, in the private practice of ophthalmology in Falls Church, Va. I have practiced general ophthalmology for the past 37 years. Our group has expanded to 11 ophthalmologists and two optometrists.
During my professional career, we have faced policies with the potential to disrupt the provision of high quality services by our profession. These included but were not limited to strict managed care plans, dire predictions of an oversupply of ophthalmologists, the introduction of resource-based reimbursement, and now the goal of eliminating fee-for-service and pushing physicians into large integrated groups paid on the basis of "value." Despite these environmental forces, our profession has flourished and remains one of the most treasured and respected specialties in U.S. medicine.
The Academy is the main reason why we as a profession have met these challenges and continue to flourish. Unlike many other professional associations where seniority is the main qualification for volunteerism, the Academy has always encouraged the participation of young members to infuse leadership with fresh ideas and insights. In my early 30s, I was given the chance to help develop policies and comments on the Federal Health Planning Act and an onerous federal proposal on health manpower shortage areas. This led to a long period of service to the profession. In the early 1980s, I was involved in the founding of the Academy's practice management committee. In the 1990s, I became interested in federal advocacy, regulation, health policy, physician payment and health care financing. I was pleased to serve as the chairman of the Federal Economic Policy Committee, secretary for federal affairs, and Academy representative to the AMA Relative Value-Scale Update Committee that I chaired for six years.
Currently, I serve as the Academy's medical director of health policy. I lead our efforts to develop quality metrics, chair the Health Professional Council of the National Quality Forum, and serve on the measure-development committee of the Academy's ophthalmic clinical registry, the IRIS™ Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight).
Currently, there are powerful forces pushing for a dramatic overhaul of our health care system. There are popular but unproven assertions that physicians employed by integrated systems organized around hospitals can deliver health care more efficiently with better outcomes. Never has there been a greater dissociation between health policy and economic and clinical reality. With strong federal advocacy and a continuing emphasis on quality, excellence and innovation, the Academy is well-positioned to meet these challenges to the profession and our patients. I am truly honored to participate in these efforts.