A Message From Martha Vijjeswarapu, TMAA President, 2020-21

Last May when Lisa passed the torch to me, none of us could have foreseen the toll this past year would take on our lives. We have endured the loss of family members, colleagues, and friends; suffered through tremendous stress and powered through uncertainty. In a year that many considered “on pause,” the Alliance continued to move forward. We worked with county medical societies to organize PPE Drives, arrange food deliveries for weary frontline workers, and volunteered at vaccine clinics. And throughout, we never stopped caring for the homefront. I am so proud of all of you!

When I took office, my goal was to keep the Alliance connected through the pandemic. We began by scheduling monthly listening sessions with county leaders, offering a platform to share ideas, struggles, and ways to remain relevant. Together, we learned how to use Zoom, explored new membership strategies, and discussed ways to support our members. I am extremely proud of these sessions, as they mark the first time county leaders across the state have met and worked together on a regular basis. I believe we are all stronger for it.

The other big program we launched, the Online Enrichment Series, was our way of providing the type of educational programming offered at ALLMED to all TMAA members. Throughout the year, experts presented on topics such as coping with the uncertainty of COVID; managing conflict; financial planning; and fitness, nutrition, and mental health. We were joined by TMA VP of Advocacy Dan Finch to guide us through this very unique legislative session, and we kicked off 2021 with TMA President Dr. Diana Fite, who shared the challenges and successes she encountered as a physician, wife, and mother. Recordings of all these presentations are available on the TMA Alliance website (texmedalliance.org).

Of course, there were many other changes we made throughout the year to accommodate our new virtual lifestyle. Last August, our Organizational Review and Strategy Committee spent a day on Zoom discussing methods of building alliance programming and membership. In September, we kicked off a fitness challenge to encourage members to get moving and practice self-care after long months of being stuck at home - it proved so successful that we launched a second challenge this January. Come October, our long-awaited Regional Meeting in Abilene switched to a virtual format, complete with goodies mailed to attendees, courtesy of Big Country County Medical Society Alliance.

This year, we introduced incentives to show the value of the Alliance to our resident and early-career spouses, including the Allies in Medicine program, which pairs veteran members with young spouses to help familiarize and support them during the difficult years of residency and early career; and the Resident Emergency Fund, which grants up to $1,000 for resident families in crisis.

On the legislative front, First Tuesdays in the Districts moved to a virtual format in July, providing a relaxed and informal atmosphere for members to discuss TMA’s legislative agenda, share physician stories, and strengthen relationships with local legislators. This led the way to First Tuesdays at the Capitol continuing on Zoom when the session began this February.

We continued our rollout of the newest Alliance program, Texas BookShare, securing a $12,000 grant from the TMA foundation to expand to five new counties, as well as sustain the program in the four counties where it currently exists. Texas BookShare promotes early literacy and health during wellness visits for children who live in underserved communities.

Though this year was not the one I expected, full of traveling across the state and getting to meet you all in person, I am so very proud of what we have accomplished. Our county leaders did an exceptional job of finding creative ways to make the most of these strenuous circumstances, and it has been a privilege getting to work with you.

It has been an honor serving as your President - I could not have done it alone. Thank you to my board for your dedication during this difficult year. Everything we accomplished this year was possible through your great ideas and efforts, and I truly appreciate you. I also want to thank Pam and Sasha for their hard work keeping us together this year, organizing our virtual events and keeping us updated through the newsletter, website, and Facebook.

And lastly, thank all of you for hanging in there this year!