Sherry Clarke is a Registered Nurse, wife of an Ophthalmologist in the Fox Valley and a member of the WISMedPAC board. She was born and raised on a large dairy farm in Wisconsin and has lived most of her life in Wisconsin. Currently, Sherry works with Medicare Advantage programs for a large industry payer group. She shared some thoughts about being politically active.
How long have you been politically active?
In 1996 my husband, who was active in the Wisconsin Medical Society (WisMed), was asked by one of the WisMed staff to talk to our State Representative about a Scope of Practice issue involving optometrists doing surgery. His discussion – including a model of the anatomy of the eye, plopped onto the desk for demonstration purposes, helped to clarify with the Representative how the impact to the patient who received care from a practitioner doing surgery without proper training would affect quality of care, possible risk and poor outcomes. As a result, and also with the help of other physicians contacting their legislators, this practice by optometrists was voted down by the State Legislature.
Soon after, I became interested in health care policy affecting health care and I too became involved as a Wisconsin Medical Society Alliance member with legislation. I joined the WISMedPAC Board in 2003 and served for a few years. As a WisMed Alliance member, I was State Legislative Committee Chair in 2005-2007 and later became legislative chair for the AMA Alliance. I proudly was appointed to the AMA Council of Legislation as the Alliance liaison for 3 years. At the same time, I continued on the AMAA legislative committee as both chair and member. Recently I completed 2 years of again being Chair (2020) and member of the AMAA Legislative Committee (2020-2021).
You are the only non-physician on the WISMedPAC board. What perspective do you bring that benefits physicians and the Medical Society's political programs?
I experience health care as a consumer, a community member and as a nurse. My involvement with my career gives a perspective that physicians usually aren't exposed to in their day to day work. I can detach myself from the stresses and requirements that physicians have to deal with in working for employed groups or as independent practitioners. The changes over the years – going back to the 1980s until now – have affected physician practices by increasing burden with documentation, coding, EMR, rules/regulations, decreased reimbursements, costs of continued education, hiring and paying for staff, additional liability and increased workload, etc. Politics do in fact factor into a physician's ability to practice health care. While I am not a physician, my perspective is that I know what keeps docs up at night.
How does being politically active make you a better health care advocate?
I can make an impact in knowing the issues and by being able to speak from a physician-family member point of view as well as from a health care provider point of view. If we, as physician advocates in health care, aren't a voice on the issues, those that lobby against us for their wants will get the votes to pass their legislation... and it often isn't in the best interest of quality health care and the physician. I stand with physicians.
Your advice for physicians on how to get more involved in issues that affect their profession?
Take the time to call your legislators, write the email or letter, meet and get to know your legislators. They look to you as a physician to educate them. Legislators often don't know what the implications are for policy that is being considered. You are the experts! Those on the other side of the opinion are telling the legislators what they want them to know, not what you know... YOU as a physician need to be part of the discussion if you want to protect medicine, health care and your profession. Give to WISMedPAC! Docs need to be heard from.
Other than politics, what else interests you at the moment?
In my spare time, I enjoy cycling, golf and dancing – any type of partner dancing – Salsa, Swing, 2-step, Ballroom.
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