Past, present, future

A.T. Still Memorial Lecture: ‘We embrace our past as we walk into the future’

Sarah Wolff, DO, discusses how the osteopathic medical profession’s rich history positions it well to take a leadership role in today’s health care landscape.

Sarah Wolff, DO, a family physician practicing near Portland, Oregon, delivered this year’s A.T. Still Memorial Lecture at the AOA’s Annual Business Meeting. Dr. Wolff also serves on the AOA’s Bureau of Membership.

Dr. Wolff spoke of the challenges of practicing modern medicine, with medical systems and finance pushing physicians to see more and more patients in less time. Asking how physicians can maintain their connection to patients and practice high-quality medicine in such a system, Dr. Wolff looked back on the profession’s founder, A.T. Still, MD, DO.

Dr. Still pushed the bounds of medicine in a new direction, noted Dr. Wolff, who said today’s physicians can do the same by embracing teamwork, technology and innovation.

On teamwork: “Each physician, despite specialty, should work to cover the preventative care gap, high risk codes, reduction of polypharmacy, and when necessary, de-escalation of care. We can help our patients avoid disease through prevention, but currently, the burden falls, through payment incentives and responsibilities, [on] primary care alone. We all know that specialists have a huge role in the overall health of our population, and we need to get them aligned around these goals.”

On technology: “EHRs were implemented to improve health care; and now, they’re one of the leading causes of burnout. Let’s lower this death-by-paper-cuts click count and design a health record that focuses on patient care, ease of documentation and automated reminders for follow-through. By doing this, we can increase quality and decrease the burden.”

On innovation: “Research opportunities have to be more widely available, inside and outside typical academic settings. We all should be constantly pushing towards medical advancements and the increase of evidence-based medicine. This means that we need to have research on pharmaceuticals, OMT and beyond everywhere.”

DOs are well-positioned to drive the policies of medicine, Dr. Wolff noted, as the value of whole-person health care has become more appreciated by leaders across the health care landscape.

“As we get called to lead, we must embrace and showcase our distinctly osteopathic identity,” she said. “Health care is looking for answers. We continue to provide a patient-centered direction.”

Watch the full speech in the video above.

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy