There has been a lot of attention lately on the health disparities facing African Americans, both nationally and in Kansas. For example, it was reported recently that Kansas had the largest racial disparity in COVID-19 death rates in the nation.
There are other disparities that MSSC physicians have known about for a long time, such as higher mortality rates for Black infants in Sedgwick County.
Many disparities are related to social determinants, such as income and education levels and access to healthy foods and transportation. Systemic racism also can be a driving force behind inequities.
MSSC has been active in addressing some of the disparities. For example, MSSC helped form the Maternal Infant Health Coalition. MSSC’s Health ICT program has worked on food deserts and the prevention and management of chronic diseases among African Americans. Project Access helps uninsured residents receive specialty care. MSSC also advocates for policies that would reduce disparities, such as Medicaid expansion.
But MSSC is looking at additional ways to improve care and reduce disparities. One idea is working to increase the number of African American physicians.
MSSC physicians of all ethnicities provide high-quality care. However, research shows that Black patients, particularly Black men, tend to have better health outcomes when they are seen by Black physicians.
One likely reason is that patients may be more comfortable with a Black physician and, therefore, more open about sharing health concerns. Black patients also may be more trusting of Black physicians, which increases openness to prevention measures.
Currently, MSSC does not have many Black physicians. Of about 975 active MSSC members (not counting retired physicians or residents), 24 are Black, or about 2.5%. What might be done to increase this number? MSSC is considering a multipronged approach.
MSSC physicians speak each year to high school classes about their profession and what it takes to become a doctor. MSSC is looking at targeting more of those visits to high schools with higher minority populations. MSSC also is considering starting at younger grade levels, perhaps even elementary schools.
Regan DeHart, MD, said she spoke to a little Black girl a few years ago who said she didn’t know that people who look like her could be doctors. “We need to start early,” DeHart said.
Another pronged approach could focus on Black medical students, particularly at KU School of Medicine-Wichita. MSSC has inquired to the KU Endowment about setting up a scholarship program. MSSC also is investigating summer pipeline programs for minority undergraduate students that help prepare them for the medical school application process.
A third prong could focus on residency programs: How can Wichita increase the number of African American residents? How can we get more of them to stay in Wichita when they complete their training?
David Bryant, MD, said that resources and support are key. Black students and residents need to know there are people who will take them in and can teach them, he said.
MSSC also is considering other ways to reduce health inequities, such as educating MSSC members on health inequities and on how implicit bias or misinformation can impact health care.
Maurice Duggins, MD, suggested more community outreach, such as getting information to Black women about what to expect during their pregnancies and what resources are available.
Some of these initiatives could take years to see results, such as speaking to elementary students. But, DeHart said, “We have to start with something.”
Here are some of the health disparities between Blacks and Non-Hispanic Whites, as compiled by Familiesusa.org and other sources. Blacks are:
- 5 times more likely to die from a coronavirus infection.
- 44% more likely to die from a stroke.
- 40% more likely to die from breast cancer.
- 52% more likely to die from cervical cancer.
- 2 times more likely to die from prostate cancer.
- 25% more likely to die from heart disease.
- 3 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication.
- 72% more likely to be diabetic.
- 5 times as likely to die as infants.
- 2 times as likely to die of SIDS.
- 2 times more likely to have asthma.
County health officer Garold Minns, MD, has always advocated that people get flu shots, but this year his message is even more dire and he’s asking physicians to step up their efforts to get their patients vaccinated.
“Of all the years, this is the year we really ought to be campaigning to have our patients take the flu shot,” Minns said. “I know we’ll never get to 100%, but I think it’s going to be a more complicated year. And we do have the vaccine for it.”
COVID-19 cases are rising throughout Sedgwick County, the state and much of the country, and many health experts fear cases will continue to surge as we approach the fall and winter – right into flu season.
As of yet, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, although many companies are working around the clock to establish one and move to production. Because many symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 may overlap, testing and treatment could become even more complex, Minns said.
“If you hear Anthony Fauci say on his most optimistic days that’s he’s hopeful we’ll have a vaccine for COVID, he’s saying maybe December,” Minns said. “Even so, we may not have widespread availability until 2021, possibly spring or late in the winter.”
So far, coronavirus has resulted in more than 3.2 million confirmed cases and 134,572 deaths in the U.S. as of July 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Sedgwick County, health officials have recorded 2,203 cases and 28 deaths.
Those numbers – and the associated strain on hospitals and health care resources – most likely will be compounded by the flu, Minns said. CDC preliminary estimates for the 2019-20 flu season show that up to 56 million Americans exhibited flu or flu-like illnesses and accounted for up to 740,000 hospitalizations and up to 62,000 deaths.
Residents who get vaccinated lower their chances of getting influenza – or at least increase their chances of acquiring a milder case of it should they become infected.
“That’s why I’m urging physicians and the Medical Society to help out with messaging to patients,” Minns said. “Start a campaign early. Contact patients and encourage like we never have before. Let’s get all the doctors on board and start preaching.”
Public health officer Garold Minns, MD, left, fears the upcoming influenza season will complicate COVID-19 testing and response and encourages physicians to promote the flu vaccine to their patients.
by Patricia Wyatt-Harris, MD —
Things have certainly changed since I became president of the MSSC. I expected to be leading in-person board meetings and conducting large evening gatherings. I also expected to be going to the AMA meeting in Chicago. None of that has happened due to COVID-19.
MSSC has taken a leadership role in dealing with this pandemic, but who could have predicted this? MSSC Executive Director Phillip Brownlee and my predecessor as president, Michael Lievens, MD, created momentum last year with increased participation in events. I hope this continues when we finally see a clear way forward through this crisis.
My personal life also has changed. My husband is a high-school physics teacher at a private school. He is 66 and was looking forward to teaching a few more years.
Reacting to the new economic reality that we all face, the school did not offer him a full-time contract next year, so he made the decision to retire. I thought I would be first!
Getting used to this has been difficult at times, but we are adjusting. We are fortunate to be able to move on with this phase of life.
Another thing that has changed is our ability to be with our grandson. Anyone who knows me is aware that I love being a grandma. I don’t get very far into a conversation without sharing stories and pictures of Liam. He is 19 months old and, of course, is brilliant.
My son and his wife are both engineers and have been lucky enough to work remotely full time. They took Liam out of day care, which resulted in an unexpected consequence: He is much more healthy! He was catching everything that circulated through the day care, but he hasn’t had a fever or a runny nose since he started staying home. They have done a marvelous job of working full time and caring for him full time.
They live in Olathe, and we were getting together at least twice a month before the pandemic. Since then we have only had two visits, with masks and minimal hugs. We are all very compliant with wearing masks at work and in public. We are still careful with family visits. This lack of visiting in person has been hard.
On the other hand, my son has been able to put FaceTime up on a larger device (so we aren’t tiny), and we have spent a lot of time with Liam using technology. We call it the “Liamcam.”
We got some of his favorite books, and we read them together. We sing songs and do the actions that go with the songs. He shows us his cars and puzzles, and we have seen him grow through this process.
We usually spend about 30-45 minutes with him four or five times a week. While we are “playing with Liam,” my son is able to get some work done. Amazing!
People have used many adjectives to describe 2020, such as “difficult, “unprecedented,” “stressful,” “uncertain,” “extraordinary” and “turbulent.” Those are certainly accurate, as the pandemic has strained our health care system and economy and resulted in a staggering loss of life.
But I hope our members also have experienced some unexpected good things, like our “Liamcam,” while we are all working to find a way through this pandemic.
About 10 MSSC members spoke via video conferencing to the Wichita City Council on July 3 in support of a mandatory mask order. The council approved the order on a 4-3 vote.
The number of active COVID-19 cases started increasing not long after the Sedgwick County Commission lifted Gov. Laura Kelly’s phased-reopening plan on May 27. But the active case count and positive test rate began spiking toward the end of June, prompting Kelly to issue a statewide mask mandate.
After the County Commission voted on July 2 to change the governor’s mandate to a “strong recommendation,” Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple called a special meeting of the City Council.
The MSSC physicians raised concerns about the increasing infection numbers and explained how masks are a proven method to reduce transmission. They warned that action was needed before the July 4 holiday.
MSSC President Patricia Wyatt-Harris, MD, said she was speaking on her own behalf, as the MSSC Board of Directors had not voted on whether to support a mandate. She told council members that masks were needed “to keep our economy open and our citizens safe.”
On July 8, Garold Minns, MD, who serves as Sedgwick County’s public health officer, ordered a mask mandate for the entire county and a limit on gathering sizes. He had previously recommended stronger action to curb the spread of the virus, but the County Commission didn’t follow his advice.
“It’s important for our residents and businesses, our whole community, to come together and protect one another from COVID-19 and also enact measures that will allow us to recover economically,” Minns said.
The Sedgwick County Zoo’s 12-year-old African elephant, Zuberi, is now considered recovered from a potentially deadly virus that mostly affects elephants under 15 years old – and local health system Ascension Via Christi played a role in her recovery.
Zuberi had been receiving anti-viral medication and other treatments to fight EEHV – elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. Zoo officials, who posted regular updates on their Facebook page beginning in June, said EEHV is a hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal in severe cases. It is one of the deadliest viruses for elephants worldwide, both in the wild and in human care and there is no vaccine for it.
Zuberi’s round-the-clock treatment included anti-viral medications, rectal fluids, and daily blood counts to monitor her progress, zoo officials said. But Zuberi needed blood and plasma transfusions as well.
“Because we don’t have the centrifuge necessary to separate plasma from the blood, our human health care partners at Ascension Via Christi so graciously offered their services to us,” zoo officials wrote on Facebook. The blood donations went to the lab at St. Francis, which separated the blood and returned it to the zoo in a few hours.
On June 24, after two weeks of treatment, zoo officials declared Zuberi to be recovered from EEHV. The rest of the herd has continued to test negative for any EEHV infections.
The MSSC membership approved the slate of candidates for the 2021 MSSC Board of Directors. Please welcome the following physicians to the board: E. Jeanne Kroeker, MD, President-elect; Laura Tatpati, MD, Secretary; David Norris, MD, Treasurer; Megan Dingwall, MD, Mark Laudenschlager, MD, Jennifer Thuener, MD, .Board of Directors
New and noteworthy …
> Wichita physician wins teaching award
Wichita physician Philip Dooley, MD, has been named the 2020 Kansas Exemplary Teaching Award winner in the full-time faculty category by the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians.
The award acknowledges KAFP members who deserve recognition of exemplary teaching skills, as well as individuals who have implemented outstanding educational programs or developed innovative teaching models.
In 2014, Dooley was hired as the program director for the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita’s Family Medicine Residency Program at Ascension Via Christi. He serves as a clinical associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at KUSM-W. As residency program director, Dooley oversees two outpatient clinics that provide 33,000 outpatient visits per year, 54 residents, 21 full-time faculty and several part-time faculty, KAFP officials said.
“Ascension Via Christi Family Medicine is the second largest family medicine residency program in the country. It requires an exceptional medical educator to successfully run a program of this size,” said Rick Kellerman, MD, Department of Family and Community Medicine chairman at KUSM-W.
In March, the KAFP awarded Derby physician Edward Lind II, MD, the 2020 Kansas Exemplary Teaching Award in the volunteer category.
> Hospitals resume no-visitor policies
As cases of COVID-19 infections continue to rise in Sedgwick County, Wesley Healthcare and Ascension Via Christi both resumed no-visitor polices, the hospital systems announced on July 9.
Wesley Healthcare’s policy went into effect on July 10 and Via Christi’s on July 11. Both health systems have a few exceptions, mostly around labor and delivery, neonatal care, and pediatrics.
“We have seen a significant increase in local infection rates, as well as in hospitalizations throughout Wichita, and are taking this step once again to protect our patients, visitors, physicians and colleagues from potential exposure,” said Bill Voloch, president and CEO of Wesley Healthcare. “We understand how difficult it can be for patients and families. However, we feel this is a necessary step toward keeping our facility as safe as possible for those who come here for the care they need.”
> Roster, pre-order deadlines coming up
MSSC requests the return of forms for the 2021 MSSC Roster before Aug. 15 – along with pre-orders for copies of the 2021 roster before prices go up Aug. 16.
Please direct questions to Rhonda Welch at (316) 683-7557 or email her at email@example.com.
> Grant helps faculty teach telemedicine
A $2,500 innovation grant from the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine is allowing local educators to develop a curriculum for third-year medical students to learn the logistics of conducting exams via telemedicine.
The program is led by Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, MD, PhD, an internist and assistant professor who directs the neurology clerkship at University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, one of only 14 recipients of the national grant.
Schwasinger-Schmidt said the curriculum, which is necessary today more than ever, will cover skills such as what to do when a computer crashes, how to incorporate telemedicine into a practice model, and information regarding reimbursement.
> Doctors can opt out of MIPS program
CMS announced that physicians will have the option to opt out completely or partially from the 2020 MIPS program by completing a hardship exemption application and indicating it is due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), the American Medical Association reported.
Individual clinicians and group practices have until Dec. 31, 2020, to complete the hardship application. CMS plans on providing physicians with a couple of options on the hardship exemption application. Alternatively, practices may submit a hardship application and opt-out of all four performance categories and be held harmless from a 2022 payment adjustment.
Submitting any MIPS data to CMS will override the hardship exception application and physicians will be scored on their submission. “The AMA is pleased CMS took our recommendation to create flexible reporting options in 2020 with the option to reweight any or all of the MIPS performance categories,” AMA officials said. Find more information at ama-assn.org
> Save the Dates
- Access the Edge, Project Access fundraiser – Thursday-Friday, Aug. 29-30
- MSSC General Membership Meeting, celebrating international medical graduates –Tuesday, Oct. 1
MSSC extends its condolences to the families of Drs. Laurie Coyner, MD, and Mickey Myrick, MD
Psychiatrist Laurie Coyner, MD, died on June 14, 2020, following complications from a fall. She had worked at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Medical Center since 2018, and previously had served at Wichita Psychiatric Consultants and at Newton Medical Center. She was 63.
Family medicine physician Mickey Myrick, MD, died on June 19, 2020. He was 78. He practiced in Hays for 13 years prior to teaching family practice residents and practicing medicine in Wichita from 1990-2015. His final years in practice were dedicated to serving the uninsured and underprivileged, his family said.
Members of the Society who know a good and sufficient reason why any of the following applicants are not eligible for membership are requested to communicate with the Medical Society of Sedgwick County office.
[BC] Board Certified [R] Residency [F] Accredited Fellowship [F*] Unaccredited Fellowship [AT] Additional Training
NEW ACTIVE MEMBERS
Shaun M. Altneu, DO
[BC] Internal Medicine
Ascension Medical Group Via Christi – Carriage Parkway (7/31/2020)
818 N Carriage Parkway, 67208
Medical education obtained at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine 8/2005-5/2009. Internship in Internal Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan 6/2009-4/2010. Residency in Internal Medicine at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey 6/2010-6/2012.
Thomas Frimpong, Jr., DO
[BC] Neurological Surgery
Pain Management Associates
825 N Hillside S-200, 67214
Medical education obtained at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine 7/2004-6/2008. Residencies in Neurosurgery at Grandview Medical Center in Dayton, OH 7/2008-6/2013 and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine 8/2013-6/2016. Fellowship in Spinal Surgery at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, NY 06/2016-7/2017.
Bassem Matta, MD
[BC] Internal Medicine
Kansas Gastroenterology, LLC
3121 N Webb S-101, 67226
Medical education obtained at American University of Beirut 8/2008-6/2012. Residency in Internal Medicine at Duke University 6/2013-6/2016. Fellowship in Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 7/2016-6/2019. Fellowship in Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy at NYU School of Medicine 7/2019-6/2020.
Keep your 2020 Roster current by adding the information listed below and in the Membership section of this issue of the MSSC News:
Johanna H. Agustin, MD
Wesley Medical Center- Obstetrics Hospitalist
550 N Hillside, 67214
Alexander J. Bollinger, MD
[BC] Orthopaedic Surgery
Advanced Orthopaedic Associates, PA
Peeyush Grover, MD
[BC] Interventional Cardiology
Heather L. Roe, DO
[BC] Addiction Medicine
Jeffrey T. Shepherd, MD
[BC] Orthopaedic Surgery
Advanced Orthopaedic Associates, PA
Donald G. Vasquez, DO, MPH
Robert J. Dole Veterans Medical Center
5500 E Kellogg Dr, 67218
Shravani R. Vindhyal, MD
Robert J. Dole Veterans Medical Center
5500 E Kellogg Dr, 67218
Brady J. Werth, MD
Wichita Surgical Specialists, PA
Christopher D. Cassidy, MD – 6/30/2020
Jeffrey P. Davis, MD – 6/30/2020
J. Alex DeBaun, MD – 6/18/2020
Ryan N. Farmer, MD – Moved out of state
Kathy W. Forred, MD – 6/30/2020
Justin L. Gooden, MD – 6/30/2020
Daniel J. Hein, MD – 6/30/2020
Bryan K. Henderson, MD – 6/30/2020
Robert Hsiao, MD – Moved out of state
Arif Hussain, MD – 6/30/2020
Gary J. King, MD – Moved out of state
Richard E. Liepins, DO – 6/30/2020
Mark L. Mosley, MD – 6/17/2020
Jennifer L. Pharris, DO – Moved out of state
Kent M. Potter, DO – 6/30/2020
Vismay J. Thakkar, MD – 6/30/2020
Geoffrey M. Vincent, MD, MPH – 6/17/2020
Sandy R. Dillard, MD –12/31/2019
Patrick M. Healy, MD – 12/31/2019
Glenn D. Taylor, DO – 3/30/2020
Mark L. Wencel, MD – 7/3/2020
Alan J. Fearey, MD – 8/31/2020
ProviDRs Care is the only physician owned and managed Preferred Provider Organization network in Kansas. By leasing its provider network to insurance companies, third party administrators and self-funded plans, ProviDRs Care maintains choice and competition among health insurance plans in Kansas.