Physicians have failed to communicate why the public should trust them

LETTER — Posted March 14, 2005

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Regarding "Keeping the issue alive: How to keep medical liability in the news" (Article, Jan. 31): This demonstrates how little doctors understand about the fundamental issue causing inaction on reform, reimbursement and every other issue facing physicians. As long as the public's perception of physicians is still that of arrogant, overpaid, white men who drive BMWs, public sympathy for physician's issues will be minimal, and government leaders will have little political incentive to act.

The current PR campaigns ("Who will deliver your baby?") inspire some public concern but not the much-needed support. Indeed, the stories, banners and buttons seem more like threats from the powerful rather than cries from the victims.

Americans will never understand complex issues like medical liability reform, but they might be persuaded to support a trusted physician. Billboards and magazine ads abound praising nurses and others for hard work, compassion and sacrifice; yet when was the last time anyone recognized "Doctor Appreciation Day"? No wonder the public doesn't trust us -- no one is telling them to. The best PR strategy is to take back our role as hard-working, altruistic healers and teachers. Public support and a congressional mandate will soon follow.

Fernando Leyva, MD, Panama City Beach, Fla.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/03/14/edlt0314.htm.

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