The history of the Coastal Virginia Medical Society dates back to the 1960s when it was first formed in Norfolk and was known as the Norfolk Academy of Medicine. Other medical societies were also forming in the neighboring cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. These societies formed as physicians recognized two things: We needed an organization to support each other collegially and we needed to raise our concerns about local medical delivery issues to our state legislators, so that changes could be made when necessary to improve healthcare in the region. These societies became very strong and were well supported in the beginning primarily because,in order to get malpractice insurance, physicians had to also belong to a local medical society. This requirement was dropped several years ago, unfortunately, and as a result, membership in these societies waned. As they declined, so did our ability to influence our legislators. Our colleagues have drifted away from each other. As I make rounds in the hospital now, I see many doctors walking around whom I don't know and have never talked to about the state of medicine today. There is always much to be learned from our colleagues about medical advances, new medications, and the overall medical political and legal landscape. This is not happening any more.
As a result of these changes, there is little communication among doctors about anything. That makes it easy for big companies to split us up. Without the underlying support and knowledge that medical societies could have provided, and with the loss of income caused by poor insurance reimbursements, physicians were easy targets for private entities to take over. If we had been talking to each other we might have been able to see what was coming and do something about it. Instead we just let it go on.
As the medical societies waned in membership, the supporting dues and sponsorships gradually disappeared and they were no longer able to provide meetings and support for their members. The Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Medical Societies just vanished. The Norfolk Academy of Medicine was the strongest and the last to go, but they were having many problems in addition to the decrease in membership, particularly with regard to their financial structure. Their board had brought up the idea of merging our societies several years ago, but there was just not enough interest in it at the time. However, they did manage to limp along over the past 1-2 years and were still having meetings in 2022, and they did maintain their tax-exempt 501(c)6 status and Tax ID number, as the other two societies just dropped theirs.
Suddenly, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Physicians were without a voice at all in the management of healthcare in those cities. The government and monopolized businesses were making all the decisions. Physicians had taken their societies for granted and didn't realize the void in healthcare leadership for us and our patients that would occur without them until they were gone. Should there be any wonder why quality patient care, access to care, and physician welfare are not doing well now?
Susan Herring, the Executive Director of the Tricounty Medical Society, saw what was happening and sent emails to several of us in the now defunct Virginia Beach Medical Society. She asked if we wanted a medical society here or not. We were somewhat shocked, although we should not have been, that we didn't have one any more. So we set up a meeting in October of 2022 to discuss it in the West Wing Conference Room of Virginia Beach General. We went over our options and decided to move forward with trying to figure out why the lack of membership and enthusiasm for the old medical society and how we might be able to re-establish the society to make it more appealing to potential members. We needed to re-explain the necessity of having one.
If you are trying to remember what, if anything, that the previous medical societies ever did for us, you only need to look at the cap that was placed on malpractice lawsuits in Virginia just a few years ago. That was the work of the medical societies coming together and making it happen.
So, our small group started talking, having more meetings, and making plans. We called ourselves an Organizational Committee. Our Virginia Beach Physicians in our Committee start calling and connecting with prior society board physicians in Chesapeake and in Norfolk. It was decided that a merger between the three cities might work as a stronger organization involving more physicians and providing a stronger voice in what happens. Since the Norfolk Academy of Medicine still had its Tax ID number and was still recognized by the IRS and the State Corporation Commission as a legal entity, while the others did not, physicians from all three cities decided to merge together under that entity. We did not have to form a new organization. We just had to change the name of the Norfolk Academy of Medicine to something that would encompass all three cities, hence the name Coastal Virginia Medical Society. The new name was formally approved by all the physician leaders in the three cities, by the State Corporation Commission and by the IRS in July of 2023.
After that, a new Board was formed and we began having monthly Board Meetings. There was very little documentation available from the three previous societies, so a new Business Plan and new Bylaws had to be developed. A new bank account was created, and dues invoices were mailed out to as many physicians in the three cities for whom we could find email addresses. These have been trickling in and we are definitely growing. We have established an advocacy program. We even collected multiple delegates and voted on many issues at the Medical Society of Virginia Annual Meeting in Norfolk in October this year and we intend to take an even more aggressive approach in 2024 regarding CON (Certificate of Need) laws, mental health, pre-authorization requirements, etc.
We had already developed a website and started producing newsletters in the early part of 2023 to develop a way to communicate with potential members and to let them know what we were about. We also placed an ad in the local Doctor to Doctor magazine and joined the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, just to get the word out that we were alive and functioning.
We were helped and supported (non-financially) along the way by other neighboring medical societies including the Tricounty Medical Society, the Medical Society of Northern Virginia and the Richmond Academy of Medicine. We have a corporate sponsorship program to obtain financial support in addition to our dues income.
We intend to be a strong organization with our primary focus on advocacy and benefits for our members and for our patients. We will remain independent of all other organizations and make our own decisions about what we will support or not support. We ask our membership to voice their concerns about their own practices, what works for them and what doesn't. We want to know the flaws in our healthcare system so we can do something about them. Our motto after all is...
Making a Difference in Healthcare in Virginia!
Stay up to date on issues and news you need to know. The CVMS Bulletin is published monthly and will list concerns that local physicians have expressed about healthcare in Coastal Virginia and how we can make it better. We will provide potential solutions and let you know what is happening behind the scenes to help solve these problems.
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