Colorado Medical Society

Cover: Finding encouragement in medicine

Wednesday, November 01, 2017 12:00 PM

At an annual meeting one year a medical student told me that she was discouraged about her future after listening to all the administrative problems physicians face in order to take care of their patients. That really got me thinking. I am truly grateful for the gift I was given when I received that letter of acceptance to medical school at the Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1962. I started thinking about what has changed and what I could share with younger generations of physicians to encourage them as they enter this challenging career.

Looking back, after 50 years, I still believe the practice of medicine is one of the most rewarding professions you can choose. The relationships we develop with our patients when we have the privilege of guiding their care during emotionally stressful parts of their lives gives our lives purpose. Finding clues to making diagnoses, working in camaraderie with caring professionals, and reflecting on successes of good medical and surgical outcomes gave me a great deal of satisfaction. The relationship we have with our patients allows us to be human and to connect with our patients even when the automation of the health care system threatens to reduce us to cogs in the machine.

Physicians are making health care better, and we make larger gains for all our patients and our doctors when we band together through membership in the Colorado Medical Society. I urge all members to invite non-member colleagues to join us. Some of the non-members simply don’t know how much of our advocacy affects their practice.  When we work at the state capitol to keep the trial lawyers from increasing the cap on non-economic damages, it helps all Colorado physicians. We helped block two mergers of the largest health insurers in the country to protect patient choice, physician bargaining and care quality. We were incredibly effective in 2017 General Assembly with managed care reform and look to continue our successes in the public policy realm.  Help us reach physicians who get the benefit of our work but don’t choose to belong.  Let them know that it is easy to access the streamlined member application at

Our achievements as an organization, under the leadership of Alfred Gilchrist, and all the members of his excellent staff, are quite remarkable. We changed our governance structure by dissolving the House of Delegates and allowing all our members to propose policy platforms using Central Line – an online, award-winning, first-in-the-nation membership engagement platform.  All members can now vote for our officers.

During the next year we will face many challenges. The Board of Directors and I will continue to work to preserve health care insurance availability for all Coloradans, and advocate for you and our patients at the federal and state level so that we can provide the right health care at the right place at the right time when it is needed.

I will also continue the work of Past President Katie Lozano, MD, FACR, of addressing prescription drug abuse. Physician-led organizations like CMS and COPIC are now five years into efforts to reverse what is being called the largest U.S. public health crisis in the last 125 years. We are fortunate to be joined by a broad stakeholder coalition of providers, consumers, and elected officials in the legislative and executive branches of state government. Read more in this issue's Final Word column.

When the time is right in your career, I encourage you to consider taking some of our CMS leadership courses and volunteering to serve on a committee.

It is another way to keep your satisfaction with your chosen profession at a level that sustains you. As I read about the exciting discoveries in medicine, I can see that the things students will be able to do for patients in the years to come are the things my generation could only dream about. When current research in the use of stem cells and the CRISPER Cas9 gene therapy and many others come to fruition, it will be incredibly gratifying to use these therapies to extend and change lives. Sometimes I almost wish I were a medical student again … almost!

From my vantage point of having enjoyed being a physician for over 50 years, my recommendation to avoid burnout is to take the time to enjoy the good that you do for people every day. I challenge you to identify the barriers that prevent you from enjoying your practice, change what you have the power to change, and work with your medical society colleagues to fix them. This is our privilege as doctors and CMS members.

Meet your new president

Robert Yakely, MD, is a retired urologist living in Denver. He married his wife, Rosemary, in 1965. He received his medical degree from the Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1966 and completed his internship at Ohio State University in 1967.  His training was interrupted by the Vietnam War, when he was drafted in 1967 into the Navy’s medical corps. He was assigned to a squadron of destroyers’ home ported in Charleston, S.C.

After finishing his service in the Navy, he was accepted into the urology program at the University of Colorado Hospital in 1969. He practiced adult urology for many years until he and Rosie felt the call back to the ocean. A colleague, Noel Sankey, MD, medical director of the Kidney Stone Center, approached Yakely with an opportunity to work part-time. In 1996, he retired from his general urology practice and accepted the job as co-medical director of the Kidney Stone Center until he retired in 2015. This job allowed him and his wife to spend 10 winters living on a 45-foot sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. During this time, he and his wife started a prostate cancer screening program. For this contribution, the legislature named them honorary citizens of the British Virgin Islands.

Within CMS, Yakely served as vice-speaker and then speaker of the House of Delegates before running for president-elect of CMS in 2016.