Candidates with a Cure
Physicians and Alliance Members Run for Office
Being a family physician in a town of 11,000, J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), knows firsthand how his patients and their families increasingly struggle to afford medications and rising health insurance premiums and copayments. To ease some of the burden, Dr. Sheffield has distributed medication samples, partnered patients with pharmaceutical assistance programs, and used sliding fee schedules.
“But when I didn’t see anything else we could do at the local level, I felt the best position to help them would be in a legislative seat in Austin,” he told Texas Medicine magazine, a monthly publication by the Texas Medical Association (TMA). “My patients’ situation motivated me to run.”
Dr. Sheffield stands among an unprecedented number of physician and TMA Alliance member candidates who ran or are still running for office in the 2012 elections. These physicians, feeling increasing regulatory burdens and other threats to the practice of medicine and good patient care, are trading in the work they do in their exam rooms to address issues in state and national committee rooms.
Representatives are poised to fill as many as eight seats in the Texas House and Senate combined — a first — and keep one seat in the U.S. Congress.
Top goals for these candidates include making health care coverage more affordable across the board, improving patient care, reducing barriers to the patient-physician relationship, and recruiting more physicians to small towns like Gatesville, where medical offices and hospitals are often among the larger employers in the community.
“Government plays an increasingly broad role in the day-to-day lives of patients and physicians,” said Houston emergency physician and TMA leader Arlo Weltge, MD. “In Texas, Medicaid spending makes up the largest portion of the state budget, and second to that is education. So when two-thirds of the budget goes to health care and education, it depends on professionals and leaders in those areas to step up and engage in the process.”
“There’s no question that not only in our communities and on the campaign trail, but also in the legislature, doctors have the ability to effectively articulate and explain some complex issues that those with different backgrounds may not as quickly be able to diagnose,” said Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), a neurosurgeon running for an open seat in the general election for House District 24 in Galveston County. Dr. Bonnen joins Dr. Sheffield and Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels), as Texas physicians seeking their first term in office.
Meanwhile, several legislative-veteran physicians and TMA alliance members are looking to continue building strong relationships with other elected officials and provide leadership in navigating the evolving health care landscape.
These veterans include Sen. Bob Deuell, MD (R-Greenville), a family physician; Rep. John M. Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), an anesthesiologist; Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene), a TMA Alliance member and wife of TMA Board Trustee Austin King, MD; Rep. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), an orthopedic surgeon running for a seat in Senate District 5; Rep. Mark Shelton, MD (R-Fort Worth), a pediatrician seeking a Senate seat in District 10; and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Regardless of who wins, Dr. Weltge said of Texas physicians, “Our task and goal is to make sure that all elected legislators are educated on the implications of the medical issues they are presented with and that they all understand the importance of good health policy.”
For more about Texas physicians running for office, check out the November issue of Texas Medicine magazine.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 46,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA's key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the association and raises funds to support the public health and science priority initiatives of TMA and the family of medicine.
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Nov. 1, 2012
Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320