“Just because you don't take an interest in politics, doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you," counseled California Medical Association (CMA) President Richard Thorp, MD (LLUSM 76-B) paraphrasing Pericles.
In this morning's Grand Rounds talks to the Departments of Anesthesia, Surgery, and Internal Medicine, Thorp outlined his personal path from well-prepared and trained clinician to physician advocate. Once known as a calm and competent internist who served as Chief Medical Resident at Loma Linda’s Riverside General Hospital affiliate in 1980-81, Thorp displayed passion for the “sacred calling” of medicine. “It’s not about money or influence, but our voice must be heard,” said Thorp.
Explaining the campaign that led to more than half of Loma Linda University Faculty Group physicians joining the California Medical Association, Thorp identified a practice environment in rapid flux. “California’s 1975 MICRA [Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act] has stabilized professional liability rates for physicians in California. It has struck a reasonable balance for patients, preserving awards for economic and punitive damages, but limiting awards for pain and suffering.” Thorp outlined the strategy of trial attorneys to repeal or change this law. Framing a planned ballot initiative as a “Patient Safety Initiative” to protect patients from doctors, trial lawyers have targeted this year’s ballot. “Striking the right balance will require vigilance and actions from physicians and their professional organizations,” advised Thorp.
Another area that will transform access and practice is the implementation of expanded Medi-Cal and Healthcare Exchange Products under the Affordable Care Act. Lauding the healthcare needs of uninsured Californians, Thorp cautioned that “getting it right” will present challenges to stakeholders. “Many of these products are priced at rates considerably lower than Medicare. When physicians look at the cost structure of their practices, they find that they are unable to service these contracts,” observed Thorp.
Following his talks with faculty and trainees, Thorp toured the LLUSM Clinical Skills Education Center and Simulation Center as well as other facilities on campus, ending with a noon meeting with medical students.
“I have always been grateful for the preparation Loma Linda gave me for my career,” reminisced Thorp following his talks. It created the foundation for providing clinical services in my small community.” When not serving his duties as CMA president, Thorp practices internal medicine in Paradise, California. He and his wife Vicki enjoy cooking, gardening and scuba diving and their blended family of four children and two grandchildren.
CMA Chief Strategy Officer, Jay Hansen, San Bernardino Medical Society Executive Director Jim Peterson and Marketing Director Lucy Garcia accompanied Thorp.