Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Serving Those In Need: Texas Tech Physicians’ role in taking care of West Texas

Serving Those In Need: Texas Tech Physicians’ role in taking care of West Texas

Representatives of 22 American medical schools met in Philadelphia in June 1876 and called themselves the Provisional Association of American Medical Colleges. That organization became the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Today, the AAMC serves 145 accredited U.S. medical schools and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools. The organization works with nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as 93 academic and professional societies.

Its annual meeting is important and well attended by people involved in medical education. This year’s meeting is being held in Baltimore. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine has a number of people attending the meeting which runs through Thursday of this week. It is good that TTUHSC people attend because by doing so we stay current it and provides an opportunity for Tech to influence national policy and the direction of AAMC.

I am always interested in hearing what AAMC President and CEO, Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., has to say about matters. His topic this year is the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” in today’s America.

He believes this economic chasm has deepened and widened, particularly in the context of health care delivery. Furthermore, he thinks that health professionals should help to address these inequalities and believes that much of the violence and unrest we see in our nation at the present time is due to these inequities. I have only read the speech (as opposed to hearing it in person)--but, even on the written page, there is some considerable urgency to his plea.

One of his points I thought was particularly impressive, and one that I have heard our own TTUHSC President Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., make as well when asked about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is the ACA certainly has not solved all access or quality problems. Here is what Dr. Kirch has to say on the matter:

“The ACA has helped narrow the gap in health care access by making health insurance available to millions of previously uninsured or underinsured Americans. Today, the percentage of our population without health insurance is less than 12 percent—the lowest rate ever. But insurance does not guarantee access, and access does not guarantee proper care. People might have insurance, but may not have the specialist they need nearby, they may not have transportation, or they may not know how to navigate a complex health system.”

This is something for us to think about in West Texas. The value of having health insurance is diminished if one lives in Small Town, West Texas with no transportation and no doctor willing to take your new insurance coverage. It is unrealistic to think that we can solve everyone’s problems on access in this great part of the state that we serve. However, it does raise this question: What are some things we can do to help folks what are underserved?