Meet the 128th President of the Arizona Medical Association (ArMA)

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Written By: Susan Whitely, MD

I am Susan Whitely, your 2019-2020 Arizona Medical Association President.

Many of you know me, but for those who do not, I will tell you a little about myself. I was born and raised in central Ohio. I come from a large Irish German family and I’m 1 of 60 grandchildren on my Irish side. I have been married to Ed for 27 years, and we are blessed with a 25-year-old son, Benjamin.

At the age of 3, I was blessed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which greatly influenced my career path. I attended Xavier University for undergraduate studies and I received a Master’s Degree from Loyola Chicago in Pastoral Studies. After many years of practicing as a hospital chaplain, I decided to attend medical school at The Ohio State University. I completed residency in Family Medicine at Saint Joseph’s and began my own practice in central Phoenix 22 years ago.

My experiences as a patient for many years as a child, and later in life as a chaplain, have shaped me as a physician. I find being a business owner with my husband is sometimes a daunting task because I am torn between helping my patients and running my business. I desire to practice evidence-based medicine; but guidelines frequently change, and one size does not fit all patients. I try to teach healthy choices to my patients, yet I don’t always find it easy to maintain my own exercise and dietary efforts!

On a state and national level, I am distressed that so many groups are trying to divide physicians into adversarial groups. The most recent legislative session in Arizona demonstrated ArMA physicians-specialists and primary care, hospital and private practice physicians, active and retired, medical students and residents, all coming together to represent physicians and our patients. ArMA must continue this diligence for Arizona physicians and our advocacy efforts must remain relentless.

Recently ArMA engaged in a critical strategic planning process, helping me prioritize my focus for this upcoming year. Advocacy efforts for Arizona physicians continue to be ArMA’s number one priority, reflective of ArMA’s mission. The pressures to obstruct physicians are enormous from many sources and ArMA has remained steadfast in protecting the doctor-patient relationship and keeping these forces out of our exam rooms! Advocacy efforts in Arizona must not only be continued, but strengthened, and our advocacy team is ready for this challenge.

In addition to our advocacy efforts, I would like to focus on two other priorities: financial stewardship and increased involvement of early career physicians.

As a previous ArMA treasurer, the continued careful financial stewardship of our resources is critical. If we all rely solely on our treasurer and finance committee, we are doomed. Growth will only happen if we all take ownership of our economic goals. Every member of ArMA can contribute; every member can prioritize bringing in one new ArMA member and strategizing to increase non-dues revenue. Reaching out to community groups and non-members is essential to our economic strength and growth, and it takes all of us. If you do not know what to do, call Libby and ask, “How can I help?”

My final priority is ArMA’s critical need for succession planning. The demographics of our membership indicate an approaching “retirement cliff.” This problem is also our greatest opportunity. ArMA will work to engage early career physicians, residents, medical students, and help train future physician leaders. On every committee, our younger physician membership will be present and prioritized.  This new focus involving early career physicians will also give us greater diversity and strength of leadership. I am very energized and excited about this strategic planning initiatives.

Finally, according to Meister Eckhart, a German theologian, and mystic, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” I would like to conclude by thanking a few of the many people who have helped me along my physician’s journey.

I would like to thank Dr. Traci Pritchard for her dedicated service, mentoring, and grace under pressure. I would like to thank Doctors Miriam Anand, Gretchen Alexander, and Jeffrey Mueller for their mentoring and steadfast presence. I would like to thank Doctors Nathan Laufer, Michael Hamant, and Edward Donahue for their private practice guidance and friendship. I would like to thank Dr. David Ott, for keeping me on my feet! Thank you also to Libby McDannell, ArMA’s EVP for helping me in my transition.

Thanks most of all to my entire family. I could not have made it past day one of medical school without you all. To my husband Ed, and son Ben, I am beyond grateful and blessed. Thank you.

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