Some Texas women have big hair. I have a big truck. It is said that the vehicle you drive is a reflection of your personality. So, what does a big, red, Platinum Diesel, four-wheel drive, crew cab Ford 250 with 20-inch chrome wheels say about me? It says, I like to be a powerful force that you don’t want to mess with.’
At the core of my intense, perfectionist personality is a strong desire to be in the driver's seat. I prefer to drive rather than just be a passenger. Take for example, my experience in the last Texas legislative session. We had been working for three sessions to pass a law that would eliminate silent PPOs. These entities steal physicians’ discounted rates and pass them on in an ethically questionable manner. The bill finally passed, and it was on the governor’s desk to be signed into law. However, these PPOs hired some heavy-hitting lobbyists to try to persuade the governor to veto the bill. Luckily, throughout the governor’s tenure, he and I developed a friendship. When I heard he was considering vetoing the bill, I called his office and he invited me to attend a meeting with himself and the opposing lobbyists. At the end of the debate, he looked at me and said, Doc, you deserve to be paid fairly!’ Needless to say, he signed the bill into law. Without the relationship that I had developed over the years of being at the capitol, the bill could have easily been vetoed.
Academy members’ involvement in political advocacy is just that — being in the driver’s seat. Physicians work so hard and deal with so many hassles and regulations, but too many of us are just riding along. There are many powerful drivers, such as the hospitals, the drug companies, the insurance companies, the government and the non-physician providers. Each driver looks to control us for their selfish benefit.
It is much more fun to be the driver rather than in the cargo bed. We are seeing the complete loss of our profession. While there are many physicians warring to save it, we are too few. We will eventually be overpowered, unless more physicians engage. I ask you, where do you want to be? In the driver’s seat, or an unwilling passenger not knowing where this ride is going? I hope you want to drive, to have an active role in your destiny, and to have a great time celebrating the victories along the way!
Dawn C. Buckingham, MD, is an oculoplastic reconstructive and plastic surgeon.