Dr. DiPette was installed as SMA’s 113th President during the 2nd General Session of SMA’s Medical Summit Conference, November 4, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. His Presidential Address focused on key elements of the Association’s mission statement … quality, patient care, and education.

Dr. DiPette’s Presidential Address:

I would like to take this occasion to thank the SMA and SMAA leadership including the Council, Executive Committee, Members, and Staff for having the trust and confidence in me to lead our organization.  I would also like to thank my wife, Laura, for your unending support and encouragement.  I owe a special thank you to Drs. Veronica Piziak from Texas and Gary Delaney, from South Carolina, who introduced me to the SMA and Dr. Ajoy Kumar, who showed me leadership that is both active and inclusive.  The SMA has a long and distinguished history originating in 1906 and continuing to this day.  We are a special organization whose mission is to improve the quality of patient care through multidisciplinary, interprofessional education.  Three key elements in our mission statement resonate with me and they are QUALITY-PATIENT CARE-EDUCATION.

Before turning to the present and peering into the near future, it is important to remind us where we have come from in order to learn from the past, to provide stability, to continue initiatives, and ensure sustainability.  In recent presidential addresses given before this distinguished body, two years ago, Dr. Ben Carmichael urged us to “take us back to our origins when education was to be our primary focus”.  He reminded us of the critical importance of membership and the changing environment of our young physicians.  Furthermore, he urged us not just to join but to get involved!  Last year, Dr. Ajoy Kumar noted that it is within our mission “to help our membership solve the problems that make it difficult to provide quality care for patients in their community”.  In addition, he acknowledged that health care has become “complex” but stressed that this complexity could be partially addressed by multidisciplinary education which also is interprofessional.  Thus, he said that “the future of healthcare in the United States will depend on how well we work and integrate with one another with the focus being on the patient”.  During the tenure of both Drs. Carmichael and Kumar the following major initiatives have been developed and implemented:

  • A new Mission and Vision;
  • A strategic plan for the next 3-5 years which includes a more collaborative effort between SMA and the SMA Alliance;
  • An evaluation of our financial feasibility and governing structure;
  • Updated Bylaws and Procedures, which was led by our President-Elect, Dr. David Avery.

These initiatives will be continued and expanded where appropriate during the upcoming year.

Now turning to the present and peering into the near future, the theme of the upcoming year and possibly into the near future is as follows:


While most, if not all diseases, are nationwide and now global, particularly non-communicable diseases, our region has a heightened disease burden that includes, but not limited to, increased cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, a diet high in salt, carbohydrates and fats, obesity, and lack of exercise that directly leads to hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, dementia, diabetes, renal disease, and cancer.  As an organization where education is our mission, we can focus on these and associated conditions.

In order to focus and address these issues, we must have a plan for growth.  This next statement will fortunately or unfortunately bring some of us back to our 1960s roots.  To quote the now Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan from 1964, “these times, they are a changin”.  We must be flexible and nimble to meet the demands of these changing times.

There are many ways to develop and implement a growth strategy but such a strategy could include the following:

  1.  Organizational relevance.

Our current journey to explore, establish, and implement new areas of organizational relevance will be continued and expanded.  We will be reaching out to all of you for ideas and processes to contribute to this vital need.

  1.  Collaboration with entities and organizations with similar and complementary missions and memberships.

As an example of new collaborations, in conjunction with Dr. Dan Lackland, from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, the SMA is collaborating with the Georgia-South Carolina-North Carolina Chapter of the American Society of Hypertension and the World Hypertension League to host a jointly sponsored symposium on Cardiovascular Disease in conjunction with the SMA's 2018 Annual Meeting to be held in Charleston, South Carolina.  In addition, the SMA is working with the Louisiana Primary Care Association and the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons to provide accreditation services.

  1.  Connect with academia especially medical schools and their leadership.

Through the awarding of the SMA Alliance Society of 1924 Medical Student Scholarships and the SMA Society of 1906 Medical Student Scholarships, our connection with the regional medical schools is steadily growing. The first year, we received 28 applications from 17 medical schools within our region. This year we received 74 applications from 33 medical schools, as well as, 1 from outside our region. We also received several requests from different medical schools this year inquiring about the two scholarship programs. Thus, our recognition through these scholarships is growing within the medical schools which if built upon will provide opportunities for SMA to build even stronger relationships within these academic settings.

  1.  Embrace and implement a “youth strategy” which acknowledges the importance and the special needs and concerns of young physicians and healthcare providers, physicians in training, medical students and even potentially undergraduate college students interested in a future health care career.

SMA was originally established to provide young physicians in the south, for the good of its patient population, opportunities to share their experiences and to learn from each other in an open collegial environment. This was the original purpose of SMA’s Annual Assembly. I believe we must bring this focus back to the association and to the Annual Meeting more specifically. The design of next years Annual Meeting in Charleston will reflect this renewed focus on the young physician.

As an organization that is mature and robust as ours, we have many “crown jewels” including the intellectual capital of our leadership, a highly knowledgeable and experienced staff led by Mr. Randy Glick, and the energy and wisdom of our membership.  I would like to take this opportunity to highlight two such “crown jewels”.

The first crown jewel is our SMAA.  Founded in 1924, the SMAA is a vibrant partner and complementary component of our organization.  The SMAA has had dedicated and skilled leadership which continues to today, as exhibited by Kathy Murray, our present SMAA President.  Kathy and I have already begun a serious collaboration and share a common vision.  This common vision is reflected in Kathy’s HEALS program that she outlined in her presidential address this week.   Because of its eloquence, timeliness, and simplicity, it is worth reiterating.  The “H” is for Health Issues, especially those responsible for the increased disease burden in our southern states. The “E” is for Education and Outreach and our dedication to collaboration, both old and new. The “A” is for Advocacy and Awareness in our rapidly changing healthcare environment.  The “L” is for Living Well and Staying Well and the “S” is for Being Stronger by Working Together.

The second crown jewel is our medical journal, the Southern Medical Journal or SMJ. Throughout the tenure of Editor-in-Chief Dr. Richard Holt, the SMJ is increasingly seen as a repository for manuscripts in medical education and clinical academic medicine. These multidisciplinary clinical articles are of broad interest among healthcare providers and maintain an ongoing focus on bioethics, professionalism, the patient-physician relationship, and bedside medicine.  Within the last year or so, the SMJ has published special issues on Sickle Cell Disease and Breast Cancer, as well as, series on Bedside Medicine, and Disaster Medicine.  It is important to note that these issues involved collaborative efforts with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Johns Hopkins University, and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, all of which are in our Southern Region.  The SMJ continues to have dedicated, committed, and expert Editorial Board members, and as the result of an outstanding International Editorial Board, has expanded its international readership. The SMJ can now be considered as an “international journal.”  In addition, the SMJ utilizes highly select, expert peer review panel members.

Importantly, the SMJ has a strong commitment to medical students, physicians in training, and young physicians, providing guidance through the manuscript submission process, as well as opportunities to serve as peer reviewers in collaboration with their senior faculty members.

Thus, it is clear that both the SMAA and the SMJ represents the three key words of our mission statement, noted at the beginning of this address, namely, Quality, Patient Care, and Education.  Both represent a key voice and platform for our Theme of Addressing the Heightened Disease Burden of the Southern Region and they clearly contribute to the four key points essential to our growth strategy by keeping and expanding the relevance of our organization, fostering collaboration, connecting to academia, and positively impacting our youth strategy.

In conclusion, these are changing times and change is uncomfortable.  As others have previously stated, “if one is staying the same, one is losing ground”.  We have embarked upon change, but we will ensure that the long tradition of the SMA including its mission, core values, and guiding principles are continued and strengthened.  I thank all of you, who make up our SMA family, for your active participation, dedication, and belief in our organization.  Given such a strong family, a successful year and beyond is assured.  I also wish all of you and your families a successful year and safe travel back home.  Thank you again.

President's Corner - Donald DiPette

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