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Mississippi State Medical Association inaugurates first internationally trained president

RIDGELAND— Lee Voulters, M.D., a neurologist practicing at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, was sworn in Friday as the 149th president of the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA).Inline image 1

Dr. Voulters grew up in the United Kingdom, attending medical school at the University of London, making him the first international medical graduate to lead the state’s largest physician organization.

In his inaugural address, Dr. Voulters said more than 25% of U.S. physicians are trained outside of North America, and nearly 12% of Mississippi physicians were trained internationally.

He pledged to diversify MSMA’s membership to better represent all physicians in the state.

“Only then can we speak with one voice to stand up for the needs of our patients which must always come first,” Dr. Voulters said.

His tenure will be focused on advancing MSMA in four strategic areas: increasing state funding for public health, stroke treatment and prevention, state-regulation for telemedicine, and improving medical coverage for all Mississippians.

“Our public health funding is critically low,” Dr. Voulters said in reference to the state’s budget cuts for the coming year, including an 11% decrease in funding to the Mississippi State Department of Health. “This is a crisis situation that must be addressed as quickly as possible.”

An extensive system of stroke care championed by the Mississippi Healthcare Alliance has increased capacity to manage acute stroke and acute myocardial infarction throughout the state.

“As this network matures we can better serve Mississippians with heart disease and stroke. But, significant state funding is needed,” said Dr. Voulters. “With adequate funding we can develop a statewide system of stroke care that will be the envy of the nation.”

Central to the mission of MSMA is protecting the practice of medicine and defending the physician-patient relationship, especially as technology continues to evolve in the health care landscape.

“One very real threat to the integrity of care delivery is the invasion by large national telemedicine corporations with poor care models,” said Dr. Voulters. “Telemedicine is medicine first and technology second. It can only be good medicine when it replicates the physician-patient encounter.”

MSMA supports state-based authority to regulate medicine.

Finally, Dr. Voulters discussed disparities in health care coverage and his goal to increase physician input in the state Medicaid system.

“Medicaid is a broken system and we are nowhere near where we need to be in terms of quality and coverage. Physicians often feel a great sense of helplessness and it appears to us that too many times our concerns fall on deaf ears,” he said. “These are challenging times. Now, more than ever before, we must join hands for a common purpose: to provide the highest quality health care to all Mississippians.”

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