April 1, 2017

Challenges & Opportunities: Time to Get Involved!

This would have been a very different article written 1 year ago. Yes, we continue to wrestle with long standing challenges in the care of ill and injured children across the country. Kids are still harmed by unsafe products and situations each and every day. EDs are swamped with patients who need expert psychiatric care. Both rural and inner city medical centers have unique needs but limited resources in caring for their pediatric patients. Threats of new and even more dangerous infectious disease epidemics continue to seemingly loom at the horizon.

On top of those challenges are new issues emerging from a rapidly changing political climate. At the time of writing this article, politicians are debating a variety of bills at the federal and state level that may impact the health and safety of children in your community. For example, US House Bill 610 would eliminate the Elementary and Education Act of 1965 which, in addition to requiring equal opportunity in education, funds many programs that promote safety and nutritional standards for students. In many state legislatures campus carry bills are on the table intended to prohibit colleges from prohibiting guns on campus. Current proposed laws will create new rules and penalties in prescribing controlled substances. How will that impact the care of pediatric patients with acute and chronic pain? Finally, what will be the impact on our EDs from the planned deportations of illegal and undocumented immigrants – particularly if parents are separated from their children?

Many of my colleagues have expressed a heightened sense of anxiety regarding the pace and direction of these changes. I urge you to call on your skills as a PEM physician and approach this as a code situation. Take a deep breath, take your own pulse. Assess the situation and prioritize. You can’t fix everything – so where are your efforts best served? Focus on a narrow scope of issues and dedicate yourself to making a difference there.

Last week I visited my state capitol to discuss a Campus Carry bill. I was astounded by how little the legislators seemed to know about the issues. While I believe that their intentions are good (regardless of their stands on issues) their positions seem to rely on feelings and arguments more than facts. This is where we can make a difference. You are a knowledgeable expert with unique and valuable experiences. Enhance your expertise in an issue and share this perspective with decision makers in a constructive way.

That leads me to wonder – what role can the section play? Here are some ideas. Share your comments/concerns on our blog (PEM Update). Educate your colleagues so they are more effective at educating others. Let us know about issues that require greater attention and we’ll look for experts and resources to help.

It is no longer acceptable to wring your hands and shake your head about the sad state of things. If YOU do not oppose bad ideas they WILL become a reality. At some point you will have to explain to someone (your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews) what YOU did to shape the discussion and decisions made in 2017. Resolve now to make your voice heard.

Michael Greenwald, MD
Section Chair

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