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From the President

      Dear SMFM Members,
      In the past few years, our Society has expanded its agenda, raised its dues, and in the process generated more questions and comments from our membership than at any time in my memory. I've written this letter to answer the two most common questions asked of the Officers and Board members over the past year. If you have other questions not answered here, please stop me or any Board member during the meeting, or E-mail any of us via the SMFM office ( [email protected] ).
      The two most common questions are, “Why have the dues increased?”—which is really the same as the second question—“Why and how have we expanded our agenda?” The answer to both questions comes from the membership survey done in 1999, when Peter VanDorsten was SMFM President. You told the Board you wanted SMFM to continue our scientific programs, but you also said, loud and clear, that you wanted help with the practice of maternal-fetal medicine, especially getting recognized and paid for what you do every day. The Board soon found that “getting paid for what we do” essentially meant educating multiple constituencies about how we differ from general obstetrician/gynecologists and that the educational process would require both time and money.
      We first sought to educate the third-party payers about what a maternal-fetal medicine physician does but found that we could make little progress until we had first educated two groups: the public and its representatives in government and general obstetrician-gynecologists and their representatives in ACOG. Unlike other subspecialists in Ob/Gyn, the lines that demarcate us from the generalists are not always easily drawn. Nevertheless, we've drawn some lines and taken our case to the numerous people, places, and organizations whose decisions can lead to recognition of our work. Under the leadership of several past Boards, and especially aided by the knowledge and energy of Dan O'Keeffe, a former elected Board member and current Ex Officio Board member, we've made a lot of progress.
      First, SMFM established a Coding Committee, made up of knowledgeable SMFM members and their business staffs. The Committee developed a coding manual for MFM that I hope most of you already use to make sure you code and bill properly to be paid fairly and accurately. Through the efforts of the Coding Committee, regular courses in which you and your office staff can learn how to code are now available, and the MFM Coding Manual has made the rounds of every insurance company and payment agency that can be found.
      To enhance our relationship with general obstetrician-gynecologists, we've worked with ACOG to develop jointly endorsed practice bulletins and to increase MFM input into ACOG decision making by adding the SMFM President to the ACOG Executive Board. We've recently developed relationships with Obstetrics & Gynecology, The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Contemporary Ob/Gyn to publish SMFM-branded articles in each of these commonly read journals as another avenue to increase awareness among general obstetricians of our areas of expertise. To ensure that our educational programs are of the highest standard, we've developed a conflict of interest policy for all authors, board members, officers, and postgraduate course faculty.
      Many decisions that ultimately affect our practice are made in government, in Congress, and at the National Institutes of Health, especially the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). These decisions affect the research that underlies our practice patterns and the flow of federal and state funds that improve our ability to care for our patients. SMFM has especially sought to increase support for obstetrical research in the NICHD and to work with like-minded organizations such as ACOG and the March of Dimes to advance the cause of better prenatal care. To promote these goals, we've created a Government Relations Committee and a 50% time Executive Vice President to represent our interests in Washington, and we've employed a Washington-based advisory firm to help us reach the right people in both Congress and the federal bureaucracy. Last year, Dr Richard Depp became our first-ever Executive Vice President (EVP), and this year, we engaged a new firm, Cavarocchi-Ruscio-Dennis Associates, to help our EVP and Board find our way through official Washington.
      In summary, the SMFM Board has done what it was told to do in the Members Survey of 1999. We're not finished, but we're well on the way toward achieving the goals we set at that time. Just to make sure the Board is still in tune with the wishes of the members, another Members Survey was posted on our Web site in September of 2003. I hope you had the opportunity to participate in the survey and to let us know where you think the future should be for SMFM.
      This year, for the first time, our Annual Meeting is being supported by another organization, the March of Dimes. Their mission to prevent birth defects and prematurity is right in line with ours, and we're glad to have their endorsement and support. Please join me in welcoming Dr Nancy Green, the Medical Director of the March of Dimes, as our Honorary Member for 2004. See you in New Orleans. And if you see Dan O'Keeffe, tell him thanks— he's the one who has pushed your agenda so tirelessly for the past 6 years.
      Sincerely,
      Founded 1977
      Eduction • Service • Research