Rising to the Challenges
Kara Dahl, MD
President, South Dakota State Medical Association
Physicians in South Dakota have faced many challenges this past year and will likely encounter similar ones in the future, likely with a unique twist. There will also be new challenges due to unforeseen circumstances as healthcare and the politics surrounding it continues to evolve. As I begin reflecting on my year as president, I thank all of you for your dedication and hard work in the face of many of these difficult situations. As I write this, COVID-19 numbers are down and there is a sense of hope. However, we endured another large surge just months ago, which highlighted how difficult this virus is to manage. Thank you for your leadership and advocacy supporting public health measures to fight the spread of COVID-19.
This year’s intense legislative session was full of proposed legislation that centered around public health and the practice of medicine. Several bills took aim at vaccinations. This is likely due to the unfortunate politicization that has taken place regarding the COVID vaccinations. Both the bill that would have allowed for employees to bring claims against their employer for perceived injury due to vaccines required for employment and a bill that would have expanded vaccine exemptions failed.
Additionally, many of the bills this legislative session were surrounding marijuana for medicinal purposes. The SDSMA staff along with many of our members advocated for putting in place safety measures and was successful in achieving physician access to the marijuana registry. There will be ongoing discussions surrounding the implementation of marijuana for medicinal purposes in our state and continued advocacy from the SDSMA will be needed.
Scope of practice is another area that will need ongoing discussions and advocacy. The SDSMA will continue efforts to find meaningful solutions to improving rural healthcare in the setting of physician shortages. We believe that a physician-led healthcare team is the best model for patient care and will continue to advocate for that.
I am excited for all that we have to look forward to in the future as physicians practicing in South Dakota. We have a strong medical association that is committed to improving the practice of medicine in our state and dedicated to strengthening the patient-physician relationship. The wellness program for physicians seeking extra assistance during difficult times or feeling at risk for burnout or moral injury is a great example of the ongoing evaluation of physician needs in our state and the desire to strive for improvement in these areas.
As we look toward the future of medicine, it is imperative to look at our medical students and residents. We must support and encourage the future generation of physicians. This starts even prior to medical school, with inspiring college or high school students to shadow or gain more knowledge about the practice of medicine. We are fortunate to have such an excellent medical school in South Dakota and many of you have been integral in the education of these students; thank you for your ongoing dedication to these future physicians. I also want to highlight the SDSMA Foundation which provides financial assistance to the students at the USD Sanford School of Medicine. All contributions go toward scholarships, grants, and low interest loans for these students in South Dakota. Your contributions are greatly appreciated – thank you.
In summary, I would like to thank all of you for the strength, courage, and resilience you have demonstrated in the past couple years as we have faced uncertain and extremely difficult times as physicians. The SDSMA will continue to advocate for you and your patients, despite the challenges that we face. Please reach out if there are important issues that we need to focus on more moving forward. I have faith that the physicians in our state will continue to rise to the challenges in front of us while continuing to plan for the betterment of medicine in the future.