Text of the speech ACOG President Thomas M. Gellhaus, MD, FACOG, delivered Tuesday morning:
Good morning Fellows, Junior Fellows, Medical Students, Distinguished guests, family and friends.
Thank you, Dr. DeFrancesco, for your kind words. Congratulations to our new fellows, honored guests and award recipients.
A heartfelt thank you to our ACOG leadership and to their spouses, partners and families — here and at home — for your commitment and hard work every day.
Your dedicated time and service to ACOG is working to improve healthcare for all women around the world.
I would now like to introduce my family: Sarah — our oldest — is a marriage and family therapist and has a gubernatorial appointment to the Iowa Board of Behavioral Medicine.
With her, is her husband, Derek Thomas, a structural engineer, and their children, Ian, Libby, Peter, Maryann, Bridgid and Leah.
Our second daughter is Dr. Laura Willoughby, a family physician, who serves our veterans at the Veterans Administrations Hospital in Minneapolis.
She and her husband Jon, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran, a paramedic, and Henepin County paramedic program director, have two children, Violet and Fern.
Our son, Dr. Paul Gellhaus, who is completing his residency at Indiana University, will begin a urologic oncology fellowship in Pasadena, CA in July.
And now — the rock of our family: My wife, Melanie Gellhaus.
Melanie is a nurse-leader and I am so fortunate to count her as my best friend and constant supporter.
Thank you, Melanie, for everything you have done for me. Because of you, and with you, I am standing at this podium today.
Words cannot express my gratitude, Melanie.
Many thanks to my professional family: Dr. Kimberly Leslie, chair of the Ob-Gyn Department at the University of Iowa, our ob-gyn department members and especially our Specialist Division.
My service to ACOG would not have been possible without your support.
Of the many mentors who have had impact on my life, my six escorts have especially influenced me in ways they may not even know.
I am forever grateful to each and would like to share with you those experiences.
Dr. Douglas Laube.
Doug was a faculty member when I was an ob-gyn resident at the University of Iowa.
He is an incredible physician, surgeon and teacher who ardently advocates on behalf of medical students, residents and patients.
He taught us to be teachers and to stand up for what we believed in.
He consistently values others and respects everyone — except maybe a few Republicans.
Thank you, Doug, for being there and for being here today with us.
Dr Paul Tomich.
I met Paul in 1994 at what is now the Congressional Leadership Conference.
Paul recognized that I was new to ACOG.
He kindly guided me through the meeting, graciously invited me to dinner and introduced me to many ACOG Fellows.
Paul serves as a living example of our ACOG professionalism and connection.
Paul, too, has been a great mentor throughout my career, teaching inclusivity and focusing on moving forward through the most difficult issues.
Thank you, Paul, for being the “mentor’s mentor.”
Dr. Michael McCoy.
Mike and I began our residency together in 1986.
Our 30-year friendship is the rare kind — unconditional and true-blue.
Thank you, Mike, for your loyal friendship and always being there.
Dr. Tom Arnold.
Tom is a great friend and also my ACOG buddy.
I met Tom in 1984 when he was an ob-gyn resident and I was a pathology resident.
Tom teaches through his actions as well as his words.
Thank you, Tom, for your friendship and mentorship.
Dr. Gene Kerns.
Gene and I practiced together from 1994 until 2010.
Gene taught me so much over the years — the business of running a practice, patient care, surgical technique and how to raise kids, to name just a few.
But most importantly, he knew the importance of being involved and he always encouraged me to push myself further despite all the obstacles.
Even after Gene retired we remain friends, and I value our frequent phone conversations.
Thanks, Gene, for being the big brother I never had.
My last escort is Dr. Aman Mahal.
When I entered academic medicine at the University of Iowa in July 2010, I became an “official” mentor and my first mentee was Aman.
It was an honor to watch him develop his clinical skills — from inserting an IUD in year one to flawlessly performing a hysterectomy in year four.
Aman successfully completed his residency at the University of Iowa and is now a urogynecology Fellow at Stanford University in California.
I am so proud of him and to be called his mentor — but the greatest reward is what he taught me from our many professional and personal discussions: The value and honor of being a teacher.
Thank you, Aman, for traveling from California to be here.
I hope you all are as fortunate as I have been — to have found mentors in all passages of my professional life.
Each of us is a mentor in some way to someone, though it may not be evident until years later.
Dr. Tom Arnold and Dr. Tamara Helfer have developed an official mentor program in District VI.
This program assists mentees in finding appropriate mentors — someone experienced and trusted to help and to advise.
As president, I will work with them and others to help develop new avenues to bring their mentoring program to the national level.
Thank you Doug, Paul, Mike, Tom, Gene and Aman for being with me today.
My first official action as your new president is to formally thank our now past president.
Dr. DeFrancesco, would you please return to the podium?
Under Dr. DeFrancesco’s leadership, ACOG has helped our members adjust to the changing environment of medicine and improve care on critically important issues.
Mark, your commitment, hard work, diligence, organizational skills, caring concern and distinguished efforts for our patients, our members and ACOG will continue to be felt far into the future.
I have also learned that you do not sleep very much!
Mark, thank you for all you have done and will continue to do for ACOG. Please wear this past president’s medallion as a token of our appreciation.
Dr. Jennings, thank you for all your years of service, your forward thinking, and your guidance.
You will be missed. However, I still know how to find you.
Over the years, ACOG presidential initiatives have led to meaningful improvements for our members and in the lives of our patients. From reducing maternal mortality in the United States and abroad to strengthening and increasing our workforce through collaborative care teams. We have seen ACOG lead Healthcare.
But, “Where do we go from here?” What is the Next Generation in Healthcare?
It is wonderful to be an obstetrician/ gynecologist.
But we are facing some of the most difficult challenges ever posed.
We cannot back down from those challenges or those we will face in the future. Paraphrasing the song from the band Chicago: “Where do we go from here? Let’s all get together soon, not just out of fear. Try to find a better place.”
We — you — are the next generation in health care.
This year we will build on the work of my predecessors, and together define the next generation:
More empowered to make a difference in health care.
We will do it together through three initiatives: Global health, advocacy and new resident education models.
My desire to work with you in global health was inspired a long time ago.
One day in 1978, Melanie and I were in college — Augustana College in Sioux Falls South Dakota.
With the idealism of youth, we knew we could make the world a better place.
We both chose professions that were devoted to helping others; Melanie — to become a nurse and me — a physician.
In those early days we became committed to serving those in need here in the United States and in developing countries.
Then, of course, came the reality of a busy life — our growing family, medical school, two residencies and building a practice.
Seventeen years later, Melanie, Sarah and I attended a presentation by an ob-gyn providing short-term care in the Dominican Republic in dilapidated hospitals with poor lighting and limited supplies.
I vividly remember thinking one clear thought:
THIS IS NOT FOR ME!
Well, Melanie, Sarah and Laura did not have quite the same reaction.
In fact, our entire family, except me, became fixated on this “great” opportunity!
After several long weeks, I finally relented to their daily reminders to send in our application, secretly hoping and hoping that we would be rejected.
Wouldn’t you know it, the dreaded letter arrived and we were — ACCEPTED — and off we went, for two weeks in the oppressive heat and humidity of a small village in the Dominican Republic.
That medical mission changed our lives.
Never did we question whether we’d return.
Over the years, Melanie and I continued to help organize and lead mission teams.
Even two weeks of a physician’s time can work wonders.
Nearly one-third of human disease worldwide can be cured with surgery.
In areas where health care is out of reach, these missions help people return to economic productivity and retain their dignity.
For my first initiative, I am introducing a six-point plan to improve the healthcare of women and children around the world.
One, many ACOG members would love the opportunity to provide surgical care in developing nations.
We will develop relationships and partner with the many well-run organizations who are already providing needed health care in underserved countries.
ACOG fellows need a conduit to identify needed care across the globe.
We will develop a hub where our members can identify short-term mission opportunities with active programs around the world.
We can help coalesce smaller local groups into stronger organizations.
Also know that short term mission projects can lead to sustainable long term programs.
Dr. Ginny Ryan and Dr. Chris Buresh from the University of Iowa did just that.
After completing a mission in Peru, they started a non-profit — Community Health Initiative — Haiti.
This program operates year round improving the health and the lives of the people in that area.
Remember 1/3 of disease around the world can be cured with surgery.
Two, ACOG is partnering with Health Volunteers Overseas, a well-run, non-profit organization that for 30 years has helped educate and train local health providers in villages in developing nations.
As a participating member of Health Volunteers Overseas, ACOG will design the ob-gyn educational curriculum for these 2-4 week projects.
Long lasting professional relationships will be formed or existing ones strengthened.
Three, many short-term mission providers are very busy and unable to prepare educational sessions for the local providers. We will develop a library of up-to-date presentations with downloadable syllabi for ob-gyns participating in short-term surgical missions to access and use in educational sessions with local healthcare providers during the course of their projects.
Teaching best practices to local providers can improve care for generations.
Four, we will build on Dr. James Martin’s presidential initiative which formed the Global Operations Advisory Group or GOAG — to identify sustainable ways to improve healthcare around the world.
I hope to develop and expand additional opportunities for our residents and young members. GOAG, in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, developed Global Health Scholars, a 4-week supervised, approved rotation in developing world hospitals for residents.
Let’s encourage, enable and empower more residents to receive this incredible learning experience and hopefully become lifelong advocates for global healthcare.
Five, we will work to assist interested universities and community hospitals to more easily develop educational opportunities in global health for their faculty learners.
We will facilitate the partnership of inexperienced institutions with experienced universities.
We are also celebrating an exciting new collaboration at this meeting. ACOG and the Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will work together to increase the quality of health care provided to women in their country. Our two associations together have developed a five year plan to strengthen the training of ob-gyns in Ethiopia through residency objectives and requirements, strengthen the research and scientific publications from ESOG members through the Ethiopian Journal of Reproductive Health, provide high quality continuing medical education for ESOG members, and create an Ethiopian certifying body.
Some of our colleagues in this collaboration are here with us today from Ethiopia. Would you all please stand and be recognized. Also, please help me thank the Center for International Reproductive Health Training at the University of Michigan Department of Ob-Gyn for making this collaboration possible.
And Six, ACOG’s Council for Patient Safety in Women’s Healthcare has partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to form the Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health, or AIM.
Instructional and educational portfolios or “safety bundles” have already been implemented in 6 states in an attempt to reduce their high maternal mortality.
I propose we share these bundles with underdeveloped countries.
Dr. Joseph Sclafani, a Baylor College of Medicine professor, already works very closely with Malawi’s Minister of Health to improve their quality of care. He started a residency in ob-gyn at the Kazmuzu Hospital in LiLongue.
I propose ACOG work with Dr. Sclafani in Malawi to implement the AIM safety bundles as a model pilot project.
Too ambitious? No — not for you — not for ACOG!
Let’s dream big!! Let’s dream really big!!
Every opportunity and privilege I had to meet ACOG Fellows and Junior Fellows across the country has left me with a greater sense of our possibilities AND our imperative.
As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”!
We also have an imperative to help our members at home to thrive and lead health care into the next generation.
We have an imperative to help advance the best possible women’s health care.
Our achievements are measured both by good things that we accomplish and bad things that we stop.
In this era of increasing legislative interference in our exam rooms, for the sake of our patients, we have a lot of bad things to stop! We have an imperative to ADVOCATE for these needed changes.
You can be very proud of ACOG’s legislative and political work.
But it wasn’t always this way.
During my McCain Fellowship in 1999, I was scheduled to meet with the then-United States Senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, to discuss an important issue and ask for his support.
I studied my talking points, did my research, and I was ready to go.
I was going to lobby my senator!
After an hour of watching groups pass me by in the waiting room, a college age person introduced herself as Senator Harkin’s 6-week sub-intern.
Sitting with her in her tiny office, I had 15 minutes to discuss our important issue.
At the end of our conversation I asked, “Would I be able to speak with the Senator?”
“Sorry, he has other appointments,” was the disappointing response.
I later learned that one group who pre-empted my meeting with the senator, were chiropractors from my own community, and they had a very large political action committee.
Ah, I see!
What more did I need to know?
What more do you need to know? The importance of being engaged on all fronts is so critical to advocacy.
Our ability to become more active in the legislative process, and in the election of members to the U.S. Senate and House, is a direct result of the establishment of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and its PAC. Ob-GynPAC works for you.
As a result of the increased efforts of our leadership, our Fellows, our Junior Fellows, our specialty and our patients are extremely well represented in the States and in Washington, DC.
ACOG is respected, as it should be, as the leader in women’s health policy and legislation.
Our Congressional Leadership Conference, with over 500 Ob-Gyns, directly lobbies and informs more than 500 Congressional leaders.
Now, it’s time for another giant leap forward, and I want you, all of you, to make that leap with me and join our growing ranks of advocacy leaders.
My second Presidential Initiative — All-in for Advocacy — is to greatly expand our legislative and political might.
I’d like everyone to realize that caring for your patients does not end in the exam room or the surgical suite, and everyone is affected by our legislative fights.
Every ACOG member should care for your patients, your practices, your specialty by being an ACOG Advocate.
Can you imagine the impact ob-gyns could have if just half of our 58,000-plus members sent an email, made a call, or met with a member of Congress either at their home office or in DC on one important issue?
We would make a huge difference!
You already have access to ACOG’s great tools which will help you take quick action on critical legislation: Ready-made emails, lists of clear talking points, and legislative primers — designed for all levels of advocacy.
This year, we’ll add new social and mobile advocacy, webinars and online resources.
Together we can do this — our action is not an option any more.
It is a necessity.
We have no choice.
We can have no excuses.
A few cannot do the job as effectively as all of us.
Throughout the year, I will be presenting “All in for Advocacy” around the country, making it easy for each and every one of you to become an advocate.
WE CAN, AND WE MUST, do this!
We must educate legislators about women’s health and have a seat at the decision making table.
Never forget, “If we’re not at their table, we’ll be on their menu! Let me repeat that: “We will be on their menu!”
Think about it!
I’m asking each ACOG member to increase your engagement in legislative advocacy.
Can you imagine what we can accomplish together?
During this presidential year, I’ll travel to your states to help lead lobby days, with you and your state medical Societies.
We will fill your Capitol rotundas with ob-gyns, residents and medical students.
Not so long ago, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” And it truly is!
Can you imagine the message we will send?
We MUST maintain the sacred patient/physician relationship and make certain that under no circumstances will legislators interfere with that relationship.
Again, we do not have a choice.
All In for Advocacy is especially relevant in a Presidential election year, and that’s the imperative to Get Out the Vote!
Learn where candidates stand on issues YOU care about, candidates for school board, county commissioner, state senate, U.S. Congress, and president.
Attend candidate forums and town hall meetings.
If a candidate asks for your vote, ask how they will vote on your issue.
Voting is our most basic and most important way to advocate for ourselves and our patients.
Ten years ago almost to this day on this same stage, Past President Dr. Doug Laube proposed new and different models for resident education and surely he was ahead of his time.
More so today, our specialty is experiencing changing demographics, changing practice patterns and a diminished workforce.
It is predicted that by 2020 there will be 6,000 to 8,000 fewer ob-gyns, and by 2025 the number of ob-gyns leaving the workforce will exceed the number of graduating residents entering the workforce by 20 percent
Residents graduating with less operative surgical experience are avoiding challenging vaginal surgery and more difficult laparoscopic procedures.
Others are choosing an obstetrical practice as a laborist or an office-based practice.
Dr. John Jennings’ collaborative care model and Dr. Mark DeFrancesco’s efforts to improve physician satisfaction have begun to address these practice pattern changes.
I will continue the work by addressing current resident education programs.
This year a group of representatives from the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Residency Review Committee and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have completed their new draft of the Educational Objectives for Residents.
We will use these to research, study, and develop alternative training and education models to address the needs of the future based on what the obstetrician gynecologist actually does.
Challenges can be great opportunities!
And change is never easy!
Again — ACOG — we can do it when we work together.
Only as a team — dreaming big to solve the difficult challenges, will we lead the Next Generation of Healthcare through mentorship programs, new global health programs, All in for Advocacy and new educational models.
The women we serve — our patients — deserve it.
Join me as a physician advocate.
It is our responsibility.
We have so much strength in our numbers and so much strength in a united voice!
As Jonas Salk stated years ago, “The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”
Think about this and ask yourself as you go forward today and tomorrow.
“Where do we go from here?”
“What is the next generation of healthcare?”
Get involved! Don’t forget the greatest reward is the opportunity to do more.
Let’s all become part of the solution!
We can do anything, ACOG — if we do it together!
We are the next generation of healthcare!