As a board-certified family physician in private practice, incoming AOA President Ronald Burns, DO, truly understands health care needs in the United States today.
“My patients have jobs, families, busy lives and unfortunately illness,” he says. “My training as an osteopathic physician allows me to provide compassionate care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit. Providing modern medicine with a personal, osteopathic approach allows me to treat the whole patient.”
Dr. Burns has dedicated years to serving osteopathic professional associations and bringing osteopathic care to more Americans. His legislative, leadership and educational service were completed with a focus on his own patients. “I learn from my patients what the health care needs are in our great country,” he explains.
The AOA’s 2019-2020 president recently sat down with The DO to talk about his plans for the year. Following is an edited interview.
What are your top 3 priorities for your presidential year?
This year, I’ll be focusing on membership, board certification and support of and collaboration with all of our very important affiliates. The AOA is a physician-directed and physician-led organization.
For membership, we want to make sure that you see an AOA that you’ve never seen before. We want to enhance the AOA membership experience to make it more personable.
We’re also going to enhance the board certification process and experience. At the end of the day, the physician must feel that something good comes from this process, that it makes us better physicians and that it results in better care. The process must be efficient, less costly and less intrusive. Above all, it must assess what we do.
When it comes to all of our important affiliates, it’s important that their voice is heard and their level of representation is increased. Our affiliate members of the osteopathic family need to be more involved; their wisdom and experience will help us guide this profession into the future.
What future challenges do you see for the AOA?
As health care and medicine rapidly change, so do the needs of our members. The AOA needs to be constantly assessing and exceeding the expectations of its members.
To grow and retain members, we must better assess, anticipate and respond to their needs. What is it that the AOA has that our members can’t get somewhere else? A few things include opportunities for education, mentoring and professional support. Coming together and sharing stories with like-minded colleagues helps physicians stay connected to the profession and cope with the changes in medicine.
How do you plan on engaging the profession’s younger members?
We really need to embrace the youth of the profession. We have a very vibrant growing profession with very specific needs. The physicians of tomorrow need more assistance in understanding analytics as a tool for health care management, especially progressive chronic disease management.
Today’s students and early-career physicians are facing unique challenges. Our early-career physicians have a lot of debt, they’re working like crazy, and they’re often seeing their nonmedical peers post on social media about their BMWs and their vacations. There’s a lot of comparing.
The AOA is here to provide support. It’s my goal to help our early-career physicians and medical students weather these challenges by facilitating mentorship and networking opportunities and offering life advice on managing debt and the stresses of practicing medicine. We hope these young physicians will make relationships through the AOA that will help them see the big picture and focus on the rewards of caring for patients.
You’re a family medicine physician. Why did you choose this specialty?
I chose family medicine because I loved the idea of serving the entire family and seeing them grow over the years. It’s the greatest job in the world. Forming long-term relationships with patients in this way is very rewarding.
How are you involved in mentoring the next generation of DOs?
I chair the Osteopathic Foundation of East Orlando, which provides educational resources and funding to premeds, osteopathic medical students and residents. We work with the University of Central Florida’s Pre-SOMA chapter, which is the largest in the country, and the osteopathically recognized family medicine residency program at Advent Health East Orlando.
We hold four meetings every year, two picnics and two meetings at our home where students, residents and attendings can meet and mingle. Everyone’s family is invited, too. Getting the family involved is key to bolstering their support. These transitions of learning are stressful, and having everybody supportive of each other is beneficial. These meetings are a great way for students and young physicians to feel connected to the DO family.
Also, in my practice, my wife, Janet, who is the practice manager, does a practice management workshop for the Advent Health East Orlando family medicine residents. She answers their questions and shows them how running your own practice is still, in our opinion, a great business option. And they’re able to see what that looks like firsthand.
What are you passionate about outside of medicine?
I have a very supportive and loving wife and five wonderful children. I enjoy exercise and spending time gardening. Living in Florida gives us the opportunity to grow bananas, pineapples, oranges and plenty of vegetables in our yard. Health, nutrition and exercise physiology are family hobbies, so we end up with some pretty interesting conversations over dinner and the result is a healthy, happy family.