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Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Winning greater investment in graduate medical education (GME) programs is a priority of almost every one of the state specialty societies that presented its plans at the 2014 TMA Advocacy Retreat last weekend. Primary care and specialties — from family practice to ophthalmology — listed GME expansion on their legislative priority lists. Scope of practice, Medicare parity for Medicaid payments, network adequacy, and new hassles with prescribing hydrocodone combination products also were mentioned prominently. In other highlights from the retreat:
  • TMA President Austin King, MD, led a wide-ranging and energetic discussion among leaders from more than a dozen county medical societies. The issues ranged from membership recruitment and retention to better engagement with employed physicians.
  • A panel of the TMA and TMA Alliance members in the Texas Legislature previewed the hot-button issues in the session that will begin on Jan. 13. State Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), offered some real hope for GME expansion when he said lawmakers will find more funds for GME if Texas physicians demand it loudly enough.
  • Physicians, students, and alliance members received some hands-on training in media relations, social media advocacy, and how to lobby lawmakers. Mark your calendar for the 2015 First Tuesdays at the Capitol: Feb. 3, March 3, April 7, and May 5.


State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) won the special election for the vacant District 28 seat in the Texas Senate. Representative Kolkhorst, who has chaired the House Public health Committee for the past four years, was endorsed by TEXPAC because she believes in protecting the patient-physician relationship and wants to keep the government out of your examining room. Her local physicians support her strongly, and she relies on them for guidance when creating health care policy. In a five-candidate field, Senator-Elect Kolkhorst won Saturday’s election with 55 percent of the vote. The seat became vacant after Sen. Glen Hegar’s election as state comptroller.


With the addition of the phrase “TMA stands up for Texas physicians” to our mission statement and some revisions to TMA’s priority goals and strategies, the TMA Board of Trustees voted to approve a draft new strategic plan for the association. These revisions were made with input from staff and all boards, councils, committees, and sections. The general consensus among leadership was that, for the most part, the original plan is still on target. The modifications focused on simplifying and strengthening the language. The plan will next be presented for adoption by the House of Delegates and then sent back to boards, councils, and committees for development of tactics and implementation plans.


Silly as its name sounds, Twitter is a communication tool of choice for the Texas Legislature. Groups that most effectively use this social network to influence the legislative process have trained their supporters to faithfully echo the organizations’ Twitter messages. This tactic substantially increases the groups’ Twitter reach … and impact. While TMA has been active on Twitter for years and has a large following, our tweets don’t get enough reinforcement from TMA members. As part of our plan to better engage the 85th Texas Legislature at all levels, we’re asking TMA leaders and member physicians to join the TMASMA (TMA Social Media Advocacy) campaign in the Twittersphere. For those new to it, we’ve posted four step-by-step videos that walk you through everything from creating a Twitter account to mastering the medium on your smartphone. Once you’re onboard, be sure to watch for and retweet TMA tweets marked with the #TMASMA hash tag. Check out our six-step TMASMA Marching Orders and get tweeting!


Congratulations to Arlo Weltge, MD, the hardworking TMA, TEXPAC, and Harris County Medical Society leader. He received the John A. Rupke Legacy Award for his lifelong commitment to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “Dr. Weltge is a well-recognized leader in emergency medicine at the national level,” said James J. McCarthy, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where Dr. Weltge is a clinical professor of emergency medicine. “His dedication to his patients, colleagues, and the specialty of emergency medicine is an inspiration to us all. I'm proud to be able to call him a friend and colleague.


We won’t publish the EVPGRAM for the next few weeks because of the December holidays. We’ll be back in your in-box in time for the start of the 84th Texas Legislature in January. On behalf of the TMA staff, I wish you a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year!