Incoming President's Speech
Capital City Club
June 23, 2011
As I prepare to begin my year as President of the Medical Association of Atlanta, I would like to take a moment to thank a few people who have worked hard in the past year in support of our Association. I would like to thank Matt Gwynn, our President and the Board of Directors. I would like to thank David Waldrep, our Executive Director and his assistants, Beverly Dickerson and Cathy Crandall. Most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, Amy and our children, for their support of me and my involvement with the Medical Association.
Three years ago when I was asked to become an officer, the Medical Association was struggling. Our finances were in bad shape. Our former Executive Director had embezzled money from our organization. Membership was down, and I had real concerns about the future of our organization. Since then, however, things have really turned around. We sold the parking lot behind the Academy of Medicine which completely resolved our financial problems, and we hired David Waldrep who has done a tremendous job in rebirthing the Association. Currently membership is up and our activities and involvement is up.
As I look back on the presidents that I have had the honor of working with since I have been on the Executive Committee, I note that they have all had their special talents and these talents have been quite timely. Billy Silver, who was just finishing his term of president, when we learned of the embezzled funds was calm and cool under pressure, as surgeons can be. The confidence that he exuded gave the rest of us confidence and comfort that we would get through that difficult time. Next, Steve Walsh took over. We had just sold the parking lot, and had a considerable amount of money with which to deal. Steve Walsh, as it turned out, had on the side obtained his certified financial planner qualifications. Dr. Walsh subsequently shepherded our investments through a very difficult time. When many people were seeing their investments dwindle, ours grew! I refer to Dr. Walsh as our protector. Next came Rutledge Forney who obtained her business degree in college and prior to going into medical school had run a family business for a number of years. Dr. Forney’s business acumen and organizational skills were precisely what we needed as we were starting to grow. After Dr. Forney came Matt Gwynn. Matt has always been forward thinking and more aggressive in his ideas and courageous in his willingness to take risks to push for change and for growth. His courage has added to our confidence.
Now, as I begin my year as president, in looking to where our organization is headed, I decided to look at where it has been and to do that, one must go to Marty Moran’s book, Tincture of Time, which is a wonderful history of Atlanta and the Medical Association of Atlanta. As I mention Marty, who was our speaker tonight, I would like to add that while Marty has done many wonderful things as a physician, the most notable thing about Marty and his wife is their near 30 years of dedication in promoting and building the Atlanta Women’s and Children Shelter. For any of you tonight who are looking for a charitable organization to support, I highly recommend the Atlanta Women’s and Children Day Shelter. Marty is a wonderful individual. He is more than just a physician. He is a humanitarian.
After reading Marty’s book, I found it uplifting, and what I took from our history is that our organization is resilient, and that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In 1845, Marthasville become the town of Atlanta and a couple of years later the City of Atlanta. In 1854, there were a handful of physicians in Atlanta that joined together to form the Brotherhood of Physicians. The Civil War was hard on Atlanta, but it was also hard on its physicians. In 1872, a few years after the war, Atlanta physicians reorganized themselves as the Atlanta Medical and Surgical Union. A year later they changed the name to Atlanta Academy of Medicine. In 1885, the group changed its name to the Atlanta Society of Medicine. Twelve years later, the Society was broke. In 1905, Atlanta physicians reorganized themselves as the Fulton County Medical Society. In 1921, our Society had its annual dinner here at the Capital City Club, very likely in this same room we are seated in tonight. That annual meeting was 90 years ago, and looking around this room and appreciating that our colleagues were here 90 years ago, it really helps one to appreciate the longevity of our organization. Hopefully, 90 years from now, we will still be having meetings very possibly in this same room. In 1971, the Fulton County Medical Society changed its name to the Medical Association of Metropolitan Atlanta. Seven months later, in an effort to appease some of the other metropolitan county medical societies, our Medical Association changed its name to Medical Association of Atlanta.
Earlier I mentioned that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I would like to describe some of the important issues that the Medical Association was facing in the 1920’s and early 30’s. Physicians were concerned about their malpractice insurance premiums. Doctors were outraged with the injustice that large companies were contracting with physicians for discounted fees for services. Hospitals were competing with the Association for doctors’ attention and loyalty. Paraprofessionals were seeking to expand the scope of their privileges. Optometrists and Physiotherapists were encroaching upon doctor privileges. In the early 1930’s, the average physicians’ income had dropped 60%. The Association was struggling with its finances and a drop in membership. There were many physicians who were delinquent with their dues. The secretary of the Association stole money from the Association. Doctors in Atlanta were complaining that Grady Hospital was dilapidated and out of date.
Today, it seems that we face many of those same issues. There has been a reduced emphasis on the importance of collegial relationships amongst physicians. More attention is being focused on insurance contracts. Physicians are increasingly putting more attention towards their ties with hospitals. Physicians are working longer hours for less pay. Increasingly physicians are seen more as technicians and less as practitioners of the healing art. There are other healthcare providers eager to wear the white coat. Despite these difficult times, it is important for physicians to remember that we must stick together, working towards common goals and what will benefit our patients. Ultimately, I know that we will get through these difficult times, and that the Medical Association of Atlanta will continue to be an organization of support for physicians and patients in the Atlanta area. I would like to thank everyone for attending this dinner tonight, and I look forward to the next year and to continue growth of our organization and appreciation that we are a resilient organization. Goodnight
Michael C. Hilton, M.D.
President of the Medical Association of Atlanta 2011-2012