Dr. Camellus Ezeugwu, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist and the Medical Director of the Just Heart Cardiovascular Group Inc., is the 118th President of Baltimore City Medical Society (BCMS). In recent years, as a board member of the BCMS and BCMS Foundation (BCMSF), Dr. Ezeugwu has championed collaboration and partnership with other physician members to offer key programs and activities. Some of these include:
– Legislative advocacy, responses to physician and patient inquiries, and resource sharing, especially now during the pandemic;
-Annual continuing medical education and resource-sharing with Baltimore County Medical Association and Monumental City Medical Society;
– Pre-med and medical student exchanges with area high schools, colleges, and universities;
– Speakers’ Bureau offerings to Baltimore City’s Eating Together program and senior residencies; and
– Health education initiatives with area faith institutions, public libraries, and universities.
Dr. Ezeugwu envisions BCMS and BCMSF working more on enhancing and increasing programs to improve health care delivery in Maryland. “I believe that collaborating with other organizations to improve patients’ access to quality care is essential. Ensuring that programs designed to prevent disease complications through Remote Patient Monitoring, Telemedicine, and Chronic Care Management Care made available to all patients (without any barriers) will go a long way in impacting the health of our patients in Baltimore City and Maryland. Again, removing all barriers to patient access to these programs will translate to a healthier patient, healthier family, and a healthier state, etc. This will in turn reduce disease complication rates and overall cost of care in Maryland,” says Dr. Ezeugwu.
Dr. Ezeugwu is also the current President of the Chesapeake IPA (CIPA) (a group of over 100 practices in Maryland) focused on the survival of independent practitioners in Maryland.
BCMS looks forward to Dr. Ezeugwu’s leadership in maintaining and forging new partnerships and collaborations.
Kavita B. Kalra, M.D., an oncologist and hematologist, takes the presidential reigns of Baltimore City Medical Society (BCMS) for 2020. Dr. Kalra is a graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at University of Maryland Midtown Campus, and her fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Kalra has been the recipient of several notable honors and awards including The Patient’s Choice Compassionate Award, a national program that honors the top 3% of U.S. physicians for their compassionate patient care.
As she assumes the BCMS presidency, Dr. Kalra is committed to both leadership and membership engaging more with the Society. Already board committees have been streamlined to two, programs, and membership and resources. Additionally, “Clear Vision: Membership 2020,” will conclude this year with an assessment of membership recruitment, retention and reclamation activities that began in 2018. Working with the BCMS Foundation, Dr. Kalra envisions BCMS partnering with other organizations to address a range of public health issues in Baltimore City.
As President of BCMS, I would like to extend my welcome to all here tonight as we celebrate BCMS’s 116th year as a component society of MedChi. I appreciate Dr. Ranasinghe’s introduction of me earlier, and I am humbled and honored to serve as the President of this great organization. After completion of my fellowship, I chose to practice in settings that would afford me opportunities to teach, translate academic concepts into sustainable programs and care, and experience issues that clinicians “in the trenches” struggle with. I am a mission driven person, and I was and am committed to advancing care of seniors and chronically ill adults of any age. To that end, I developed a teaching nursing home, which is a challenging environment for learners as it requires the honing of skills related to bedside medicine and interdisciplinary teamwork and collaboration. As a geriatrician, you are often an N of 1 wherever you practice and so I was called upon to work as a hospitalist treating seniors and as a treating clinician and teacher in an outpatient practice, house calls, home care and home health, hospice agencies, nursing homes, and LTACs (known as chronic hospitals in Maryland).
Due to ongoing changes and struggles nationally and locally, I became more interested in developing, supporting and promoting scalable and sustainable solutions for our health care system and patients we serve. These interests led me to volunteer for local, state and national organizations, and I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of BCMS for the past 6 years. While I also contributed to the dialogue within various institutions, the interests of those institutions were not always aligned with the larger needs of residents or physicians of Baltimore City, and almost always, these institutions did not have the wherewithal or resources to advance the discussion about health outside their own immediate needs. Hence, I turned to BCMS and MedChi.
About 10 years ago as I began to plan for the last phase of my professional life and what I would like to accomplish, I became more focused on sustaining medical societies such as BCMS. I will say a few words about BCMS’s historic and laudable accomplishments in a minute, but I realized that I needed to reach out to and join professional organizations that could be a platform to implementing sustainable changes in our profession and health care system.
About BCMS specifically, to assure BCMS has a rich future, there is a need to engage more early-career physicians in planning our activities. We need their input and ideas on how they would like the profession and BCMS to evolve. So, one of my top priorities for 2019 is to increase awareness of BCMS within the physician and larger communities. My goals are to attract and retain members and to reach and introduce more city residents to the range of BCMS and BCMS Foundation programs.
While the current Society began in 1904, a City medical society has existed in Baltimore since 1805. The Society was formed with the goals of sustaining quality medical practice in Baltimore and to serve the citizens of Baltimore, a mission we carry on today through educational programs, advocacy, and through providing essential resources to physicians.
I would like to expand a little on why BCMS is a treasure to be cherished and supported in Baltimore. Some common definitions of what a treasure is are (1) “a great quantity of anything collected for future use” or (2) something or someone considered very valuable. BCMS is considered something that is very valuable. Of BCMS’s notable accomplishments, I will share just a few that illustrate the value of the medical society to its members and to the citizens of Baltimore. While most physicians are employed in one capacity or another these days, our employers typically do not have the bandwith or mission to achieve some of what BCMS has or can accomplish.
Our members practice in diverse fields, such as ophthalmology, plastic surgery, anesthesiology, urology, family medicine, hematology, oncology, internal medicine, geriatric medicine, hospice & palliative medicine, telehealth, pediatrics, and neurosurgery, among others. So, regardless of a physician’s employment status, the great depth and breadth and the collective wisdom and consensus of our members in BCMS affords the Society the opportunity to accomplish great achievements that other institutions and organizations, such as hospital systems and physician groups, do not have capacity to achieve.
Here are just a few accomplishments that the concerted effort of our physicians has achieved in the past.
Now, remembering that the current Society organized in 1904, BCMS in 1908 advocated for the passage of the Water Loan Act to provide pure drinking water for City residents.
In 1927, the Society authored a paper on the need for an ambulance service and urged the Mayor to initiate it. The public ambulance service was the first of its kind in the United States.
1950, BCMS created an emergency telephone response service and over 350 physicians handled calls.
1954: Community outreach activities included weekly Q and A columns written for the Baltimore News Post, performing annual physical exams for Boy Scouts, and offering a speaker’s bureau for community meetings.
Fast forward to 1980. A two-year study commissioned by BCMS identified strategies to improve availability and access to medical care.
In subsequent years, BCMS members provided medical care for individuals who were homeless, initiated a school-based obesity prevention program, and offered expertise for a radio show called “Health Break with BCMS” that was hosted by Anthony McCarthy on WEAA 88.9.
More recently, our Women in Medicine Committee has arranged for health screenings, toiletry and clothing drives, and networking opportunities with other women’s organizations.
And last in 2013, BCMS introduced a resolution during MedChi’s House of Delegates meeting that subsequently led to our Maryland delegation to the AMA advocating for a ban on the sale of tobacco and tobacco-related products in businesses providing medical care. A year later, CVS Caremark Corp announced its plans to discontinue selling cigarettes in its stores.
These are just a few examples of BCMS’s accomplishments and why BCMS is a treasure to be cherished, and I think they illustrate the role and value of a medical society that offers physicians living in or practicing in Baltimore City the opportunity to personally share your voice and to lead Baltimore toward a better state of health.
The President of MedChi is Dr. Ben Stallings. He was unable to join us tonight, but I would like share some of his thoughts on member engagement. For Ben, member engagement means that he as an individual physician plays a key role in shaping MedChi’s legislative advocacy efforts by attending the weekly Legislative Council meetings. Those meetings provide a forum for all members to engage in debate and discourse to inform MedChi’s path through the tumultuous tides of the annual legislative session.
Dr. Stallings has noted that MedChi provides myriad opportunities for involvement. From special interest committees to legislative advocacy to networking events and beyond, “member engagement” is what you, the member, make of it. So, what does member engagement mean for you?
In 2018, we at BCMS unveiled an initiative called “Clear Vision: Membership 2020”. The aim is two-fold: (1) identify ways that our members may benefit from professional organizations like BCMS in this ever-evolving healthcare system, and (2) determine how we can better represent our collective voice as the physician community. To advance these goals, we have begun to hold focus groups and surveys to enhance recruitment and retention. One of the more revealing focus groups was held with the Medical Student Section of MedChi, and they provided highly valuable feedback regarding the potential role of organized medicine and societies like BCMS in their professional lives. Additional new initiatives that are planned include a series of “fireside chats” and “waterfall conversations”, as well as increased physician engagement in public forums to lend expertise on critical health issues in Baltimore City.
Please be on the lookout for a survey from us on these important topics, and please take the time to contribute your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions. Our hope is that a survey will offer you a convenient method to share your input. As the role of BCMS and the profession of medicine changes and adapts to larger societal and political issues, how do you want BCMS to evolve as well? The organization depends on, and will indeed only thrive, with membership feedback.
So, what does member engagement mean for you and what would you like BCMS to accomplish over the next 5-10 years for you professionally and the citizens of Baltimore? I should mention our table favors, which serve to remind those in attendance to share your contact information to join.
As I conclude, I would like to thank some special, wonderful individuals whose support give me a renewable source energy and inspiration.
First, I sincerely thank my family and friends who are celebrating with us tonight. For all of us in medicine, our family and friends must be understanding of the time required to do our work, and mine have never once complained. Their laughter, wisdom, and often simply whacky but brilliant conversation bring much joy to my life.
Next, I want to thank and honor my AbsoluteCARE family who shares with me a drive to provide the highest quality of care possible to the most vulnerable population in Baltimore. We specialize in caring for an “ambulatory ICU” population of patients who have extraordinarily high utilization and cost of care due to a lack of resources, behavioral health and substance use disorders, and the ravaging effects of social determinants of health. Thank you for what you do everyday.
Next, I am grateful for my friendship and support of Dr. Bill Reichel. Bill is an icon in the field of geriatrics, and his ongoing mentorship throughout my career has encouraged me to be mindful of the needs of our geriatric patients and spurred me on to work with the American Medical Directors Association and the American Board of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, where my efforts and thought leadership have led to the setting of standards and best practices for physicians and medical directors for the almost 16,000 nursing facilities caring for approximately 1.4 million residents in the U.S. Thank you, Bill.
I am honored to be surrounded by committed colleagues within BCMS, and with pure pleasure, I am fortunate to learn from some exceptional colleagues. To Dr. Allan Jensen, Dr. Jos Zebley, and Dr. Padmini Ranasinghe, I thank you for your leadership, commitment to BCMS and medicine in Baltimore City, and your friendship.
Additionally, our board is composed of an interesting group of physicians representing different specialties, and they, along with our Executive Director, Ms. Lisa Williams, will carry this Society into the future with great success. I appreciate and thank all of you.
Finally, I want to thank our speaker, Mr. Bruce Goldfarb, our wonderful performers, Mr. Jim Harp and his friends.
I would like to welcome all of you again, to tonight’s celebration of BCMS, the Baltimore City Medical Society.
In our over 200 year history, BCMS’ mission has remained the same: helping physicians and patients, and serving the communities in the City of Baltimore; the City we call home in various ways.
BCMS, and MedChi, our State Medical Society, have been the leading force for advocacy, and for speaking on behalf of physicians and patients. And we are proud of our successes in giving a voice to physicians through all these years.
It is a great personal honor for me to be the 115th president of BCMS, this historic organization. I came to the United States 17 years ago as an immigrant. After my residency in New Haven, about 12 years ago, I joined the Johns Hopkins faculty and chose to live in Baltimore City.
Let’s start with a little background. We live in a world that is changing at a faster rate than at any other time in human history. But some things have remained the same. Our health and wellness and the place we call home impacts who we are. The community in which we live makes a big difference in our own health, just as much as for everything else.
At BCMS, we are committed to serving our community. That means in recent years, we have had to focus much more on our own physician community.
I would like to quote a well-known ancient Buddhist saying: “Arogya Parama Labha.” Translated, this means that the ultimate profit, or gain, that anyone can make is in one’s own health and wellness.
For physicians, this literally can mean that investing in one’s health could be the best investment possible.
Today, more than ever before, physicians are affected by negative outcomes such as overwhelming stress, depression, and general dissatisfaction. Career related burnout is extremely high in students, residents, and physicians.
We know that the biggest drivers for physician dissatisfaction are social isolation, and lack of autonomy.
Some of the other known factors of stress are: the ever shifting health care reform landscape; confusing payment systems; difficult IT systems; all, factors you experience day to day. This is in addition to keeping up with the complex web of federal, state, and institutional regulations that don’t add meaningful value to our work.
It is also known that 80% of physician burnout is due to system issues rather than individual factors. So, expecting individual physicians to manage their wellbeing all on their own is unrealistic, on many levels. As a result, doctors leave the profession, become part time, or change practices etc.
However, a single statistic has always stood out to me, that describes our current difficulties. Every year, about 400 physicians in the United States commit suicide. This is about the size of a medical school, 400 doctors, who for some reason, decide to end their own life. And we all know that this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is an unacceptable situation by any standard. And it is only getting worse.
BCMS and Physician Wellness
At BCMS, we are very aware of this. Last year we started a wellness initiative with the vision of establishing activities around physician wellness that will begin the task of touching physicians in every stage of their career. Our goal is to assist local hospitals and medical practices and become part of a community wide effort.
We have a Wellness Advisory Committee and several activities are planned for the coming years based on our collective vision that physicians who invest in their own wellness will become the true healers for everyone in the community.
Increasing Physician Engagement and Representation
We recently unveiled an initiative, Clear Vision: Membership 2020. The aim is two-fold: (1) identify ways that our members may benefit from professional organizations, like BCMS in the new healthcare environment; and (2) determine how we can better represent our collective voice as the physician community.
We will hold a series of focus groups, the first of which was held last week and conduct a survey of the entire membership. Thank you Dr. Edmondson for your leadership in this effort.
We all know Baltimore City has several ongoing challenges. For example, we had the highest per capita homicide rate in the nation last year. As physicians we have a much greater responsibility to acknowledge our local realities, and try to be an agent for change, given our unique position as a universally respected profession.
Today, more than ever, active involvement of physicians in organized medicine is critical. In our City, I can safely say that there is no better place for us to unite as doctors than through BCMS and MedChi — regardless of our specialty or practice setting, BCMS is our professional home. Potentially, BCMS offers the most reach for physicians to engage with our common challenges.
The Future of Medicine
Next, I want to look a little towards the future, and add a few thoughts about how advancements in technology and medicine might affect the way we practice as doctors.
These days we are hearing a lot about what sounds like science fiction, but are in fact realities. Self-driving cars on the road, and super computers like Alexa, always listening in our bedroom. A few more buzzwords: artificial intelligence; precision medicine; tele-medicine & robotic surgery; and virtual reality and augmented reality
It is very hard to keep track because ever more amazing applications of these technologies are being unveiled every day. There is no doubt that if these advances continue at this rate, we will see dramatic changes in our day to day work as physicians.
Some functions of physicians can be easily done by computers, while some other core competencies, or soft skills, such as bedside manner, team dynamics, etc. will attract higher attention.
It is clear that we need to get our physicians ready for these transformations.
We need to support every generation of doctors to help them succeed, including those still in medical school, because we cannot afford not to.
I think we are very fortunate in this regard because we find ourselves among the best in the world. BCMS has proven itself over the last 200 years, and with world class institutions like Hopkins and Maryland in our neighborhood, we have the potential to be a greater catalyst for change in healthcare and in our communities.
As I conclude, I want to thank some special people.
Speaking personally for a moment, I would not have been here today without the good fortune to be surrounded by some very exceptional people. Although I had been involved nationally at the AMA since 2007, for me BCMS and MedChi had been my organizational home. Words cannot describe my gratitude for all that they have done for me.
I like to mention some of the key people who are my great coaches, mentors, and also, like family to me.
I’ll start with Dr. Allan Jensen and Claire Jensen, who got to know me at national AMA meetings, and discovered that I am actually their neighbor. I can’t thank you enough for the silent, but profound services you provide to the physician community, and the population of the entire City of Baltimore. You are a true inspiration.
And Dr. Zebley has also been a pillar of BCMS and the City and an outstanding personal friend, and I am very grateful for Dr. Zebley and Ineke Zebley for all they have done for me.
I would like to thank Dr. Willarda Edwards, who is a Board member at our national AMA (American Medical Association) and past president of BCMS and MedChi. Thanks Willarda, for showing me the way to stand up as a woman physician, and try to make a difference when I didn’t have the confidence to do so.
Gene Ransom, our MedChi CEO, also a very special person, whose leadership has made many outstanding contributions to Maryland physician issues, and a personal friend, for believing in me.
Now, I would like to thank our Dean Rothman from Hopkins, who made a commitment to be here, and who most importantly, has made wellness a priority at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
I want to also thank Dr Jeanne Clarke, our General Internal Medicine Division Chair, who is a role model for female physicians. Thank you Jeanne.
I want to thank Dr. Dan Brotman, my program director, who had faith in me and introduced me to Hopkins, and also my other friends from the Hospitalist Program.
Dr. Redonda Miller could not be here, but she has been an inspiration for me at Hopkins.
Special recognition to our medical students, who are very involved, and I think our future is in great hands. Thank you.
We now want to recognize our past presidents of BCMS and MedChi who are key for the success of this organization.
Please stand up to be recognized. Thank you!
Finally, I want to recognize our BCMS Board: Jim Novick (Immediate Past President), Tom Edmondson (President-Elect), Kavita Kalra (Vice President), Jim Burdick (Secretary) and Renee Blanding (Treasurer); and Directors, Camellus Ezeugwu, Sarah Nelson, Richard Bruno (a candidate for the House of Delegates in the 41st District), Ron Delanois, and Chandana Chauhan
As you know, behind any great and historic organization there is a key staff member. And in our case it is Lisa Williams. We physicians get busy with our work, and move on sooner or later, but year after year, she keeps BCMS moving on to greater things. Without you there is no BCMS. Thank you Lisa.
And also, a special thanks to our sponsors who made this all possible, Dr. Earle Havens of Hopkins, who will deliver our featured talk, and our wonderful performers, the Ledah Finck Trio and Jim Harp and his friends.
Finally, I want to thank my family, Pubudu, and my two daughters Prajna and Pranya, who still think I attend too many meetings.