Dr. Ramón Tallaj, founder and president of SOMOS Community Care

Dr. Ramon Tallaj: “Rediscovering The Family Doctor”

This is the speech given by Dr. Ramon Tallaj, founder and president of SOMOS Community Care, at the international conference ‘Thank You, Doctor!’ which brought together family doctors from different continents in Rome on May 24.

* * *

Good morning, ladies, and gentlemen. Thank you for being here today and supporting  our initiative. A special thanks to Archbishop Paglia for his impactful remarks and for leading the cause of this effort. It is not a coincidence that Archbishop Paglia joins us today. He is a major co-sponsor of the “Rediscover the Family Doctor” international campaign which supports the role of the family doctor. Appointed by Pope Francis, Archbishop Paglia stands here as the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life whose members represent different branches of biomedical sciences to promote the Church’s life ethic.

The relationship between healthcare and Christianity existed prior to the times of Jesus.  Mike Aquilina, author, and journalist, stated in Faith and Health, a book published by our foundation, that “with the legalization of Christianity in the year 313, hospitals emerged almost immediately.”

It was only after Christianity was recognized that all human beings regardless of status…soldiers, slaves, Pagans, or Romans had access to a healthcare system, based on Jesus’ preaching to provide charity and self-giving love… to believe in human dignity and universal brotherhood. It is a divine command to heal and show hospitality to friends and strangers alike, and even to enemies.

HIS BACKGROUND

That was the environment I grew up with in the Dominican Republic. My father and my uncle were doctors that unconditionally helped all people, especially those more in need. The family doctor that my generation and generations before me experienced was a doctor that would visit the home when the patient was too sick to travel to the doctor’s office. A doctor that knew the previous generations of children and grandchildren, that would address the home and work situations to give a comprehensive treatment. When I decided to become a doctor, I knew, based on what I experienced, that my life was not going to be a life for myself or my family. It was going to be a life dedicated to the improvement of the health care system at different levels… medical, scientific, social, economic, and political.

After decades of practicing and witnessing the resilience of the human body, the human mind, and the human spirit under the direst conditions, and the unresponsive attitude of the established system, I decided to be more proactive in the defense of those who did not have a voice, but that they were in need of the support desperately.

With that goal in mind, I had the great fortune to be appointed by the president of the Dominican Republic to serve as undersecretary of public health and social services.

In 1993, I moved to the United States to provide medical care to New York’s Hispanic immigrant communities at the request of His Eminence John Cardinal O’Connor, at the time the Archbishop of New York.  

SOMOS ORIGINS

During the healthcare reform under Obama Care, I was given the opportunity to engage a vast number of physicians working in the minority communities of New York City.

In 2015, SOMOS’ is established as a leader in two extraordinary areas: Independent Practice Associations, or IPAs, and Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs, with a focus on organizing groups of minority primary care providers. This led to an emphasis on community-based, preventative quality care and its relation to multimillion dollars in savings for the underserved and in restructuring systems to accommodate their needs.

SOMOS was entrusted with the Value-Based Payment system which was mandated by the state rewarding network physicians for providing extraordinary care to vulnerable patients. In turn, the health care physicians earned compensation tied to the results of the services they delivered for their patients. This system aims to hold providers more accountable for improving patient outcomes. Value-based care covers medical and behavioral needs and the Social Determinants of Health as factors that our network physicians have focused on since our inception. This is transforming healthcare in New York.

However, there are so many more challenges that independent doctors are facing today in New York and in the rest of the world that cause the dehumanization of Medicine, particularly in contexts where administrative burdens, technological advancements, and financial pressures take over patient-centered care and human connection.

GOALS OF THE CAMPAIGN

This international campaign aims to reestablish that connection between the patient and the family doctor. And I believe that many, many of us all around the world miss that strong human connection because the campaign has, as of today, 1,155,381 signatures that support this effort.

We now have the key to humanizing healthcare by ensuring that patients are treated with dignity, respect, and empathy throughout their healthcare journey. Our campaign demands empathetic two-way communication where physician address patients’ concerns and actively listen to their needs, and patients actively participate in the treatment and improvement of their wellbeing.

The family doctor’s novelty is that they are knowledgeable of the language, culture, idiosyncrasies of the patient. Furthermore, the patient knows and trusts their doctor. Today’s patients are more suspicious of doctors and the family doctor can restore their trust. It is well known that during the pandemic that the public realized that the medical system is no longer an institution to be trusted. Why should I believe a doctor that I have never seen and do not trust? Let us restore their trust and faith in the family doctor.

To achieve this, the family doctor needs to have a support system to exercise a comprehensive treatment that includes not only the physical health but also the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families always keeping in mind their cultural backgrounds and beliefs.

The campaign aims to reduce the stress in population navigating the current system that creates an unmanageable maze of insurances, references, medicines and, potentially, misinformation from social media and other channels. Educating our patients about their health conditions, treatment options, and how to navigate the healthcare system will empower them to make informed decisions about their care.

And, as a doctor and as an entrepreneur, I am not against technology, on the contrary, I am pro-technology when ensures equitable access to healthcare services for all individuals and improves the patient experience.

But none of this is possible without providing support for our healthcare providers. By recognizing and addressing our doctors emotional and psychological needs and providing them with the resources to deliver compassionate care, is how our healthcare can be transformed into a more humanized and patient-centered system, where individuals feel valued, respected, and supported throughout their healthcare journey.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT.