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CMA president sets sights on tort reform, burdensome regulations and growth



December 06, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Physician Leadership Professional Development & Education 

The new president of the California Medical Association (CMA), Luther Cobb, M.D., spoke to the 500-member House of Delegates (HOD) in San Diego on Saturday saying that CMA must use the political capital it has ‘banked’ by recently defeating the trial lawyers’ Proposition 46 to further reshape the future of medical liability.


“Now that the trial attorneys have so amply demonstrated the wrong way to do it, CMA can chart a course for meaningful and durable reform, that is fair to those truly injured by medical mishaps, while protecting the overwhelming majority of doctors who try their best every single day to do the right thing,” said Dr. Cobb, a board-certified, self-employed physician practicing in general, thoracic and vascular surgery in Humboldt County. “If we can cut out the gross waste on the overhead of the adversarial tort system, all will benefit.”


Dr. Cobb also spoke on the necessity of regulatory reform, saying there were many unnecessary, burdensome regulations that need to be struck from the books. One example he cited was the need for a minimum level of humidity in operating rooms to prevent the risk of sparks from ether anesthesia, which is highly flammable. “We no longer use flammable anesthetics and haven't for a half century, yet this regulation persists. This makes ORs uncomfortable for surgeons, can interfere with the vision of those wearing protective eyewear and make the patients sweat increasing the risk of infection,” he said.


Looking out at the diverse members of the HOD  ̶̶  which is made up of physicians from all corners of the state, representing all modes of practice  ̶̶  Dr. Cobb said recent growth in CMA membership, which now exceeds 40,000, has been unprecedented in its history. “For many years, we on the board and the executive committee watched as membership numbers slowly declined. The conventional wisdom was that this was inevitable, that physicians just weren't joiners,” he said.  “But, with diligent organization and effort at the grassroots level, our membership has been steadily growing. We set what many thought was an ludicrous goal of 5 percent annual growth and we have achieved that.”


“And yet, all of us know many physicians who for whatever reason, have declined to join,” he said. “If it were only for the Proposition 46 victory, they will have saved in a single year's worth of malpractice premiums enough to pay for a lifetime of membership,” he said. “But our nonmember friends have to be reminded of how powerful and successful our CMA is, and this is a one-on-one collegial conversation. All of us as individuals and as groups can do better to recruit new membership or re-recruit those who have lapsed. We must pledge ourselves to that effort.”


In addition to his involvement in organized medicine, Dr. Cobb serves as chief of staff of the Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata, where he has been an active member of the medical staff since 1997. He previously served as the hospital’s chief of staff from 2000 to 2002 and vVice-chief of staff from 2009 to 2011. Dr. Cobb is also on the medical staff of St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.


Previously, Dr. Cobb served as attending surgeon, director of trauma services and director of the vascular surgery clinic at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, in San Jose, as well as clinical associate professor of surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and the chairman of the surgery department at Mad River Community Hospital.

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