A Productive Annual Leadership Conference
Robert E. Van Demark, Jr., MD
SDSMA President


Last month, I attended the South Dakota State Medical Association (SDSMA) Annual Leadership Conference in Deadwood. Thanks to everyone who attended the conference. I would also like to thank Dr. Tom Herman for his efforts as SDSMA president over the past year. It has been a challenging year for our Association. Tom’s leadership has been appreciated by all of us. A special thanks to the Executive Committee and new Board of Directors. Congratulations to Dr. Robert Marciano, who was elected as policy council chair, and congratulations to the newly elected at-large directors: Drs. Kara Dahl, Mark L. Harlow, and Lucio Margallo. I would also like to recognize the SDSMA staff. They always do an exceptional job for our membership.

At our conference, we were honored to have the American Medical Association (AMA) Chair-Elect Dr. Gerald E. Harmon as our guest and to hear what the AMA is doing on behalf of all physicians in our ever-changing health care environment. Dr. Harman spoke about the AMA positions on issues including the following: 

The repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA);
Physician burnout and what the AMA is doing to help.
The national opioid epidemic.

The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine Dean Dr. Mary Nettleman followed with an update on the medical school. This year’s graduating class had a 100 percent residency match rate. Congratulations to the new residents, and to the new incoming class.

Topics presented at our second annual membership open forum included contraception coverage, health care needs of people who are transgender, Maintenance of Certification, physician training requirements, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), teen contraception, and Native American health care.

Following the open forum, a panel discussion focused on the topic of physician burnout with panelists Drs. Laurie Drill-Mellum, Mark Harlow, Tad Jacobs, Tim Ridgway, and Craig Uthe. These experts provided advice on how we can better understand and respond to burnout, reduce sources of stress, and support physician wellbeing.

Dr. Drill-Mellum, spoke at the SDSMA PAC luncheon. Her presentation was entitled “Clinical Health and Wellbeing-Reducing the Cost of Impact of Physician Burnout. Did you know that nearly 50 percent of physicians experience some type of professional burnout? One of the top reasons for this is the increase is administrative responsibilities – increasing regulatory pressures and evolving payment and care delivery models – which reduce the amount of time physicians spend delivering direct patient care. 
Dr. Drill-Mellum is chief medical officer and vice president of patient safety solutions at MMIC. We were thrilled to welcome her at our annual conference to share her expertise.

Following the luncheon, the Council of Physicians and the Policy Council met. To those of you who have volunteered your time serving on the Council of Physicians over the years, I thank you. In 2016, our bylaws were changed we have now entered our transition year. At the close of our Council of Physicians meeting, our new Policy Council was installed. The Council of Physicians and the Executive Committee have now been replaced by the new Policy Council and Board of Directors. The Policy Council will meet twice a year and is charged with developing and adopting policy. The Board of Directors will be involved with day-to-day management of the SDSMA. 

Following the Policy Council meeting, the Awards Banquet and Scholarship Recognition completed the Conference day.

It is an honor to be the president of the SDSMA. Our organization has a long and rich history. The first meeting of the then-named Dakota Medical Society was held June 3, 1882 – 135 years ago. That meeting was held seven years before South Dakota became a state. That initial gathering was held in the parlor of the Grand Central Hotel in Milbank. Ten physicians attended the first meeting of the Society; attendance was limited because in 1882 the railroad was still under construction between Yankton (the Dakota Territory capital) and Aberdeen. One can only imagine the challenges of practicing medicine in Dakota Territory in 1882. What would that group of pioneer physicians think about the practice of medicine in 2107? 

As we enter this new year we face many challenges. Just like past generations of physicians, I know we will work together to develop solutions that will promote the art and science of medicine and improve the health of our patients: the citizens of South Dakota.

Book Suggestion 

Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions by James E. Ryan