A Conversation with Incoming KMA President Dr. David J. Bensema

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Bensema, who resides in Lexington, is an internal medicine specialist by training and is currently the chief medical information officer and chief information officer for Baptist Health System.

What is the main focus of this year’s annual meeting?

“Focus Forward” is the title of the meeting, and its purpose is to share the strategic initiative focus that has been developed over the last year under the direction of Dr. Fred Williams, our current president. It also will allow the membership to review those changes and hopefully accept a resolution that will alter the structure of our meetings and move us to a more relevant, streamlined function, one that’s more responsive to physicians’ needs. There has been a lot of work to reduce the number of standing committees and move towards commissions that will have a set focus, limited timeframe, and go away when their task is completed, so that what we do is continually relevant and evolving instead of the same process over and over again.

What are some of the other highlights of the strategic initiative that will be discussed with the membership?

In terms of Focus Forward, the major area is going to be the Community Connector Program. It is an opportunity for physicians to go through some formalized and in-person leadership training to develop and participate in a public health initiative in their community working with other non-profit organizations, charitable groups, and having a chance to develop more diverse teams. It requires leadership within the KMA as well as in the community. We think that’s going to be a very viable way to get more physicians involved in leadership and provide them with an opportunity to make an impact.

The other piece is that we will hear from Dr. Steve Stack, who is a Lexington emergency room physician but more notably is the president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA). Kentucky is in a very unique role in that we have the immediate past-president of the AMA in Dr. Ardis Hoven and Stack the president-elect. Within two years we’ll have had two Kentuckians as president of the AMA, and that’s essentially unheard of.

Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson is presenting at the meeting. What will he discuss?

He’s talking about the Governor’s health initiative, which is a chance for the state to focus on some of the health issues we face uniquely in Kentucky. We have a constellation of things – obesity, tobacco-use, preventable cancers, preventable coronary artery disease – that leave us 49th in the country when you look at the Gallup polls on self-rated health status. Our Community Connector program is a great connection with that initiative.

A year ago we passed a resolution that each year we would choose a health focus for the KMA. Last year was the non-smoking ordinance statewide, which unfortunately has not yet passed. We will continue to have that as a focus, but this year we have a resolution to elevate obesity to our primary focus.

Do you have any personal priorities beyond the obesity focus?

I’m probably the first KMA president in a long time to come in without my own agenda, and the major reason for that is that Dr. Williams and the team with the strategic focus group have done so much work and have provided us with such a significant change that if it’s passed by the house of delegates, my focus is going to be on supporting that transition and the implementation of the changes sought by the strategic focus group.

What will physicians be facing this year in terms of national health care reform?

Most notably the continuation of meaningful use is an absolute strain on our physicians. There is a resolution related to the ability to exchange health information electronically and have documentation of that.

Does the KMA have any new initiatives concerning physician extenders?

We’re going to advocate for the number of physician assistants (PAs) that can be supervised at any given time to increase from two to four. That’s in cooperation with Kentucky Association of Physician Assistants. We hope that allows physician led teams to provide greater access for the patients.

Is there anything else you’d like physicians to know?

With the KMA, we are engaging physicians in more meaningful ways in their communities. So KMA recognizes health care is local, and the Community Connector program is a way to reignite that local emphasis.

The last thing from my standpoint, I used to close my Lexington Medical Society letters with this in 2001, and I still believe in it more than ever – Physician-led. Now and always.