Advocacy in Action


By Kara Dahl, MD
SDSMA President

I am honored to be addressing you as the newly elected president of the SDSMA and would like to start by sharing some of my background in this great organization. I moved to South Dakota 7 ½ years ago and was looking for a way to become more involved in my local medical community. I began attending the Aberdeen District Medical Society meetings which is where my interest in advocacy was kindled. I gained further knowledge about the many issues facing physicians in our state after becoming involved in the SDSMA Policy Council. I also served as chair on the ad-hoc committees on Access to Contraception and Tobacco Age Increase. There have been many other important issues I have had the opportunity to advocate for or against over my years of involvement with the SDSMA. I am proud to be a member of this organization for its continued efforts to advance the quality of medical care delivered in our state by giving physicians a voice to speak up on topics that are imperative to healthcare today.

In 2018-2019 I was fortunately able to participate in the first cohort of the SDSMA Center for Physician Resources Health Leadership Institute. This experience created a better foundation for knowledge regarding leadership in medicine and taught me invaluable communication and interpersonal skills. I look back fondly of the time spent with such a motivated and inspiring group of physicians and encourage any physician who is interested to reach out to me or SDSMA staff for more information.

This year has brought forth many challenges. I commend all of you for navigating through these continually evolving times and the leadership you have continued to demonstrate. As physicians, taking care of people is what we’re trained to do; however many of you went above and beyond this past year and were challenged in ways no one could anticipate. Being a physician is not simply a job, but is a way of life, a passion to help those in need through the art and science of medicine. What you do every day truly matters – thank you.

The American Medical Association (AMA) National Advocacy Conference was held virtually this past February and I along with Drs. Benjamin Aaker, Rob Alison, and Mary Carpenter attended. We spoke to Rep. Dusty Johnson, Sen. Mike Rounds, and Sen. John Thune about current topics including telehealth, medical marijuana, physician shortage, and maternal health and mortality. I personally advocated for support of the MOMMAS Act which will implement standardized data collection methods and expand health care and social services to women in the postpartum time period.

At a local level, the SDSMA has seen many successes this year. Thank you to all of you who emailed, called, and gave testimonies to legislators. This has a meaningful impact and is at the core of our advocacy mission. I would like to highlight a few of the many things we can look forward to because of your advocacy. We now have a signed bill that gives the necessary structure to help in the creation of a physician wellness program, restrictive covenants have been removed so that physician contracts cannot limit employment within a geographic area after leaving a job, and physician assistants will continue to work collaboratively with physicians as valued members of the healthcare team.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my many role models and mentors in this organization whom I greatly look up to. I have had the privilege to learn from and form friendships with many incredibly talented and dedicated physicians throughout South Dakota. I thank them for the wisdom they have imparted upon me and fellow members and the legacy of service they continue to leave behind. It is with a humble heart that I look forward to working with all of you this upcoming year as we continue to focus on improving the quality of medical care delivered in South Dakota and our country as a whole.