Same Place, Different Viewpoint

Same Place, Different Viewpoint

by Steven Reames


I recently met with a physician leader for coffee on the top floor of the new St. Luke’s parking garage downtown. Admittedly, it was an unusual place to confer, but I had two really good reasons:

a)       These 52-year-old ears can’t compete with the sound of espresso makers and crowded coffee shops anymore.

b)      The sunrise at this location facing Table Rock is exceptional.

Sunrise at St. Luke's

As I waited, the sole vehicle around, the time to meet came and went and I thought, “Oh boy, maybe I wasn’t clear about where to meet.” But a few minutes later, the good doctor came walking over and around the parking ramp that obscured my view of the other side of the garage. “Hey man, I was enjoying the view of the Statehouse and didn’t realize you were over here!” I had forgotten that depending on which way you enter the parking garage, you end up on the roof pointing in opposite directions.

We enjoyed our talk together, taking in the sunrise, a view of the Boise VA medical center, the capitol dome, and even the balloons ascending from Julia Davis Park. But the incident got me thinking: how many times do I totally miss the viewpoints of others because they aren’t standing right next to me, looking in the same direction?

Historically ACMS has positioned itself as a “big round table in the middle of the medical community,” attempting to unify physicians around things they could all agree on. This has served us well for many years and the friendliness and collegiality of our members is unusual and even a little legendary. (At least this is what new physicians to Boise have told me.) When ACMS has moved from neutral positions on divisive or “political” topics, it has caused heartburn for some members who want ACMS to stay out of it and let the Idaho Medical Association do the hard work.

Unfortunately, in these polarized times, singing “Kum-ba-yah” alone will not cut it as physicians face increasing threats to their personal and professional well-being, produced by state laws, industry pressures, and employment conditions. The general lack of respect for physician expertise by a huge swath of the public and lawmakers points out a major disconnect between the medically educated and the "educated by other means." For ACMS to remain relevant in these polarized times, we must create spaces to talk about what we have in common despite our differences.

I am personally impressed by the recent work of non-partisan organizations like Braver Politics. This national organization, with state and local affiliates, seeks to depolarize American politics by training and modeling “patriotic-empathy” the idea that our love for our country is shown by our concern for our fellow citizens, even if and especially if they don't necessarily think like us. Their in-person and online workshops develop skills for engaging with people from other viewpoints in an effort to understand rather than persuade. Remaining curious rather than critical is a habit we all could benefit from.

In our own community, physicians like Deb Roman have helped organized the Compassionate Connections Healthcare Forum. In July, they met and discussed the impact of the reversal of Roe vs. Wade on the health of our community. The conversation included diverse perspectives which were enlightening and inspiring. Rather than ignoring the complexity of the issues and distilling this subject down to an "us vs. them" conversation, they cultivated a respectful space to gain insight and find a way forward together.

Our board’s recently expressed support for the Idaho Coalition for Safe Reproductive Health Care is another example. It is our effort to unite physicians around what they can agree on – such as the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship and the future viability of our healthcare workforce – rather than what they disagree on. To this end, we are hosting an ACMS Town Hall later this month to hear more about the Coalition’s objectives and our member's perspectives on it.

ACMS represents a wide range of physicians, specialties, employers, and members with a breadth of experiences, perspectives, and priorities. We must continue to grow in our ability to hear those from each other and work together for the common good and health of our community. This will require more courage from all of us to listen deeply for understanding with respect and to take a look from other people's vantage points. We might even enjoy a sunrise or sunset we hadn't expected!

Idaho State Capitol Building

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