State Doctors Debate Health Care Policies at TMA Annual Meeting

The Tennessee Medical Association assembled more than 150 of its physician delegate representatives in Franklin, Tenn. April 15 for the 188th Annual Meeting and policy session.

Delegates participated in a special session featuring presentations from two special guests, both of whom are TMA members: American Medical Association President-Elect Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, and Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Ralph Alvarado, MD.

Dr. Ehrenfeld emphasized common areas of interest between the national and state medical organizations including finding a fix to prior authorization burdens, reforming Medicare payment to physicians, fighting scope of practice creep, supporting telehealth and reducing physician burnout.

Dr. Alvarado, new to Tennessee following his appointment by Gov. Bill Lee as health commissioner in November, introduced himself to a statewide audience and emphasized the importance of the convergence of public health and organized medicine. As a TMA member, he also introduced a resolution encouraging physicians, particularly psychiatrists and primary care physicians, to promote the use of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number by offering it as an option to callers.

“This annual forum is where diverse perspectives converge,” said Gene Huffstutter, MD, a Chattanooga rheumatologist and newly elected Chair of the TMA Board of Trustees. “Physicians are encouraged to engage in the process, and they bring different perspectives from their medical specialties, practice environments, and geographic locations across the state. It truly is organized medicine at its best.”

Also at Saturday’s meeting, Mickey McAdoo, MD, of Milan, Tenn., Kevin Smith, MD, of Nashville and Chris Young, MD, of Chattanooga each received TMA’s Outstanding Physician Award recognizing their exemplary service and contributions to the profession and the TMA.  The award honors individuals who have made a difference in health care within their communities and across the state.

“This year’s meeting included robust discussions on important issues, and they produced collaborative opportunities among our colleagues that will have lasting value,” said Dr. Huffstutter. “Tennessee doctors reached meaningful policy decisions that will improve health care delivery and outcomes in our state. It also serves to reaffirm our commitment to advancing the highest standards of medical care and advocating for policies that promote the well-being of both patients and physicians in our state.”

Physician delegates in the House approved a number of resolutions that may affect the practice of medicine and patient health in Tennessee. Among the notable policies adopted by the House of Delegates:

  • Encouraging TMA to advocate for continued rules requiring physician assistants to formally associate in a collaborative practice agreement with a same specialty primary physician partner and secondary physician partners.
  • Establishment of an organizational committee on physician wellness with focus on strengthening and expanding current regional physician well-being programs.
  • Encouraging TMA to support legislation that promotes enhanced availability of folate-supplemented corn masa flour in Tennessee through production and retail incentives.
  • Supporting the integration of robust telehealth clinical experiences into the undergraduate medical education curriculum.
  • Encouraging physicians, particularly psychiatrists and primary care physicians, to promote the use of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number by offering it as an option to callers.
  • Supporting residents and fellows as they transition from their training into the Tennessee state workforce.
  • Collaborating with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to reduce the backlog of sexual evidence testing and prevent future backlogs.
  • Calling for legislation to provide financing and other resources to improve the state’s foster care system, including decreasing administrative barriers and expenses involved in adopting children.  
  • Calling for the adoption of a standing policy to publicly support the vaccination recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
  • Advocating for the protection of patient access to the full range of contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the preferred method to be determined by shared decision-making between patient and physician.
  • Reducing the administrative and financial barriers to obtaining contraception and increasing the practical availability of emergency contraception, with insurance coverage for over-the-counter products equivalent to the same products sold by prescription.
  • Opposing government regulation or legislative action which would criminalize or restrict physicians from providing evidence-based contraceptive care within the accepted standard of care according to nationally recognized professional practice guidelines and within the scope of a physician’s training and professional judgment.
  • Encouraging legislation to provide financing and other resources for the improvement of preventive clinical care for Tennessee women, including access to psychological counseling during pregnancy, and money and resources for sexual healthcare for women including birth control.
  • Affirming that government and other third-party interference in evidence-based medical care compromises the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship and undermines the provision of quality health care.
  • Calling for TMA to oppose any government regulation or legislative action which would criminalize physicians for providing evidence-based medical care within the accepted standard of care according to nationally recognized professional practice guidelines, and the scope of a physician’s training and professional judgment.
  • Calling for the promotion of firearm safety policy measures including mental health protection orders, safe storage laws including child access protection laws and background check legislation. Additionally calling for support of legislation that allows for the implementation of mental health protection orders and improved background checks to reduce the impact of firearm-related deaths upon Tennessee children and families, and affirming that TMA, in conjunction with the Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (TNAAP), work together with other professional medical organizations to promote and support improved public health policy regarding firearm safety in Tennessee.
  • Calling for regulation over the sale of large capacity firearm magazines.
  • Advocating for legislation with a significant increase in the state tax rate on tobacco products, and applying funds generated from the increase in revenue toward state preventive care and mental health programs.

Dr. Andrew Watson
, a Memphis cardiologist, and Memphis Medical Society past president, was officially installed as TMA President. He is the 169th president for the association.

Dr. Watson assumed the presidency from Dr. Edward Capparelli, a board-certified family physician from Jacksboro, Tenn. Dr. Watson will serve as TMA president until May 2024, providing valuable public and professional outreach on medical issues.

The TMA Board of Trustees installed new leaders for the coming year, and members reelected the Speaker and Vice Speaker presiding over the business of the House of Delegates. 

  • Gene Huffstutter, MD, a Chattanooga rheumatologist, will serve as Chair of the TMA Board of Trustees
  • Leslie Treece, MD, a Cookeville, Tenn. pediatrician, was elected to serve as Vice Chair of the TMA Board of Trustees
  • Daniel Bustamante, MD, a Knoxville anesthesiologist, was appointed as Secretary/Treasurer.
  • Landon Combs, MD, a Gray, Tenn. pediatrician, will serve as TMA President-Elect
  • John McCarley, MD, a nephrologist in Chattanooga, was reelected for a third term as Speaker of the TMA House of Delegates
  • Trey Lee, MD, a neurologist in Nashville, was also reelected for a third term as Vice Speaker of the TMA House of Delegates.