Posts Tagged autism

Creating a World Where Every Person Matters with Michele Kong, M.D.

Creating a World Where Every Person Matters with Michele Kong, M.D.

BIRMINGHAM — When Michele Kong was a little girl growing up in Malaysia, she knew the world was filled with both wonder and danger. She surprised herself and her family when she managed to kill a not-so-small python that slithered into their home. She laughs now remembering the incident, but she said someone had to do it to protect her family, and she had the shovel.

Dr. Kong is a long way from home these days, but the spirit of that young girl with the shovel still burns just as bright. So, when she and her family faced the challenge of a lifetime, they created a solution that has touched thousands of lives.

Her son, Abram, was just 4-years-old when he was diagnosed with autism. Because Dr. Kong and her husband are both physicians, they understood the science of the diagnosis, but what came next was a complete surprise.

“It was a difficult period for us after his diagnosis. As time went by, it became more apparent what Abram’s challenges were going to be, and we struggled with how best to help him. We were both physicians, with resources and a large medical network, and yet the journey with him as we navigated this new world was extremely challenging” Dr. Kong explained. “We also realized that it was an isolating journey – many countless hours were spent in therapy, and because of his sensory sensitivity, it was hard for him to attend community activities.”

Dr. Kong and her husband realized very quickly that not only were there limited resources available to meet their son’s needs, there were also limited resources available for them as a family. As they began to meet other families with children on the autism spectrum they realized they were not alone in their journey.

“There were other organizations and nonprofits focused on finding the cause for autism, but we realized that what we wanted to change was the culture of our community. We wanted to shift the mindset and culture to one where all special needs children and their families are accepted and included. It’s not just about awareness but about acceptance. It is also about meeting the children where they are, and using innovative ways to help them fulfill their potentials. And we believed that if we could change the culture one city at a time, we will eventually change the world’s view on our children.”

KultureCity was born. KultureCity is a national nonprofit based in Birmingham with the mission of the inclusion and acceptance of all special needs individuals and their families. Having only been in operation for about four years now, KultureCity has made major impact not only in Alabama, but also expanded to have offices in New York, Boston and Ohio. While awareness is always good, Dr. Kong said, action and acceptance are much better and together can change the culture of a city.

“At times people do not know what to say or do, and some of their action or inaction may be because of their lack of understanding of the real challenges that an individual with special needs may face. But once there is knowledge, there will be empathy, and with that the acceptance and more importantly, action. Actions to help an individual and their family be re-connected to the community, and to plug them back into our society. This is how we change culture,” Dr. Kong said. “Every single person has been impacted either directly or indirectly by autism. If you do not have someone in your family who has autism, you know someone else who does. It is that prevalent in our society, and this is why this mission should matter to us all.”

KultureCity is about action. The organization has teamed up nationally with the NFL, NBA and NHL as well as museums, zoos and gardens, just to name a few, to create sensory rooms for individuals with sensory needs. The rooms are calming areas designed to help an individual with sensory overload regulate and decompress. KultureCity staff also trains the organization’s staff to assist fans and guests who have sensory challenges. So far, KultureCity has outfitted seven NBA arenas, three NHL arenas, two NFL stadiums, an aquarium and science center, four zoos, seven restaurants and one college. The organization has received national recognition with the NASCAR 2017 Betty Jane France Humanitarian of the Year Award and named by Microsoft as one of the best nonprofits in the nation.

“We are constantly pushing the envelope to change our culture to one where everyone is accepted in every aspects of our community. A lot of times, these children have unlimited potential, but the difference between them and the typical child is because of their unique challenges they may need different resources, or different methods of teaching. We have to meet them where they are. It’s like fitting a round peg into a square hole. It just won’t fit. You can’t look at them and think that they’ve reached their limits because it is often not true. The limitation is on our perspective on what they can or cannot do,” Dr. Kong said.

If you would like to know more about KultureCity, to volunteer or make a donation, click here.

Posted in: Physicians Giving Back

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What If No One Was on Call [at the Legislature]?

What If No One Was on Call [at the Legislature]?

2017 Legislative Recap

In times of illness, injury and emergency, patients depend on their physicians. But what if no one was on call? Public health would be in jeopardy. However, the same holds true during a legislative session. What would happen if the Medical Association was not on call, advocating for you and your patients at the legislature? Keep reading to find out.

Moving Medicine Forward

Continued success in the legislative arena takes constant vigilance. Click here to see our 2017 Legislative Agenda.

If no one was on call… Alabama wouldn’t be the 20th state to enact Direct Primary Care legislation. DPC puts patients and their doctors back in control of patients’ health and helps the uninsured, the underinsured and those with high-deductible health plans. SB 94 was sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and awaits the Governor’s signature.

If no one was on call… the Board of Medical Scholarship Awards could have seen its funding slashed but instead, the program retained its funding level of $1.4 million for 2018. The BMSA grants medical school loans to medical students and accepts as payment for the loan that student’s locating to a rural area to practice medicine. The BMSA is a critical tool for recruiting medical students to commit to practice in rural areas. As well, the economic footprint of every physician is at least $1 million, which improves both community health and local economies.

If no one was on call… Medicaid cuts could have been severe, possibly reducing access for patients within an already fragile system in which less than 20 percent of Alabama physicians participate. Due to work done during the 2016 second special session and the 2017 session, sufficient funds were made available for Medicaid without any scheduled cuts to physicians for 2018. Increasing Medicaid reimbursements to Medicare levels — a continuing priority of the Medical Association — could further increase access to care for Medicaid patients.

Beating Back the Lawsuit Industry

Personal injury lawyers are constantly seeking new opportunities to sue doctors. While Alabama’s medical liability laws have fostered fairness in the courtroom and improved the legal climate, each year personal injury attorneys seek to undo parts of the very law that helps keep “jackpot justice” and frivolous suits in check.

If no one was on call… an $80 million tax increase on physicians to fund a new government-administered malpractice claims payout system called the Patients Compensation System could have passed. The PCS would administer damage claims for physical injury and death of patients allegedly sustained at the hands of physicians. Complaints against individual physicians would begin with a call to a state-run 1-800 line and would go before panels composed of trial lawyers, citizens and physicians to determine an outcome. In addition, any determinations of fault would be reported to the National Practitioner Databank. The Patient Compensation System would undo decades of medical tort reforms which the Medical Association championed and is forced to defend from plaintiff lawyer attacks each session. The PCS deprives both patients and doctors of their legal rights.

If no one was on call… physicians could have been exposed to triple-damage lawsuits for honest Medicaid billing mistakes. The legislation would create new causes of civil action in state court for Medicaid “false claims.” The legislation would incentivize personal injury lawyers to seek out “whistleblowers” in medical clinics, hospitals and the like to pursue civil actions against physicians and others for alleged Medicaid fraud, with damages being tripled the actual loss to Medicaid. The standard in the bill would have allowed even honest billing mistakes to qualify as “Medicaid fraud,” creating new opportunities for lawsuits where honest mistakes could be penalized.

If no one was on call… physicians would have been held liable for the actions or inactions of midwives attending home births. While a lay midwife bill did pass this session establishing a State Board of Midwifery, the bill contains liability protections for physicians and also prohibitions on non-nurse midwives’ scope of practice, the types of pregnancies they may attend and a requirement for midwives to report outcomes.

If no one was on call… the right to trial by jury, including jury selection and jury size, could have been manipulated in personal injury lawyers’ favor.

If no one was on call… physicians could have been held legally responsible for others’ mistakes, including home caregivers, medical device manufacturers and for individuals following or failing to follow DNR orders.

Protecting Public Health and Access to Quality Care

Every session, various pieces of legislation aimed at improving the health of Alabamians are proposed. At the same time however, many bills are also introduced that endanger public health and safety, like those where the legislature attempts to set standards for medical care, which force physicians and their staffs to adhere to non-medically established criteria, wasting health care dollars, wasting patients’ and physicians’ time and exposing physicians to new liability concerns.

If no one was on call… legislation could have passed to lower biologic pharmaceutical standards in state law below those set by the FDA, withhold critical health information from patients and their doctors and significantly increase administrative burdens on physicians. ICYMI, read our joint letter to the Alabama Legislature opposing the bill.

If no one was on call… allergists and other physicians who compound medications within their offices could have been shut down, limiting access to critical care for patients.

If no one was on call… numerous scope of practice expansions that endanger public health could have become law, including removing all physician oversight of clinical nurse specialists; lay midwives seeking allowance of their attending home births without restriction or regulation; podiatrists seeking to amputate, do surgery and administer anesthesia up the distal third of the tibia; and marriage and family therapists seeking to be allowed to diagnose and treat mental disorders as well as removing the prohibition on their prescribing drugs.

If no one was on call… state boards and agencies with no authority over medicine could have been allowed to increase medical practice costs through additional licensing and reporting requirements.

If no one was on call… legislation dictating medical standards and guidelines for treatment of pregnant women, the elderly and terminal patients could have been placed into bills covering various topics.

Other Bills of Interest

Rural physician tax credits… legislation to increase rural physician tax credits and thereby increase access to care for rural Alabamians did not pass but will be reintroduced next session.

Infectious Disease Elimination… legislation to establish infectious disease elimination pilot programs to mitigate the spread of certain diseases failed to garner support on the last legislative day.

Constitutional amendment proclaiming the State of Alabama’s stance on the rights of unborn children… legislation passed to allow the people of Alabama to vote at the November 2018 General Election whether to add an amendment to the state constitution to:

“Declare and affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful…”

If ratified by the people in November 2018, this Amendment could have implications for women’s health physicians.

Coverage of autism spectrum disorder therapies… legislation passed to require health plans to cover ASD therapies, with some restrictions.

Portable DNR for minors… legislation establishing a portable DNR for minors to allow minors with terminal diseases to attend school activities failed to garner enough votes to pass on the last legislative day.

If the Medical Association was not on call at the Alabama Legislature, countless bills expanding doctors’ liability, increasing physician taxes, and setting standards of care into law could have passed. At the same time, positive strides in public health — like passage of the direct primary care legislation — would not have occurred. The Medical Association is Alabama physicians’ greatest resource in advocating for the practice of medicine and the patients they serve.

Click here for a downloadable version of our 2017 Legislative Recap.

Posted in: Advocacy

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