ACP Honors Dr. Noel Deep for Advocacy Efforts

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Actions on behalf of physicians and patients alike lead to Neubauer Award for Wisconsin internist

June 7, 2019 (ACP) – There wasn't a particular light bulb moment when Dr. Noel Deep decided he must advocate on behalf of physicians and patients. Instead, it was more of an overriding sense of duty to give future doctors the same gifts and tools that he was given – namely, an environment conducive for practice.

“Physicians before me made it possible to have an environment where I can practice and help patients, and we have to pass this on to the next generation of physicians,” said Deep, an Antigo, Wisc.-based internist who's also a clinical assistant professor with the Medical College of Wisconsin, governor of the Wisconsin American College of Physicians chapter and past president of the Wisconsin Medical Society.

This attitude, along with his accomplishments and advocacy wins, led to Deep receiving the 2019 Richard Neubauer Advocate for Internal Medicine Award, presented at ACP's Leadership Day awards program in Washington, D.C.. Each year the award recognizes an ACP member who has made exceptional contributions to advance the College's public policy agenda.

For more than a decade, Deep has encouraged members of ACP's Wisconsin chapter to attend Leadership Day so they can tell their stories and share concerns with legislators. He's done the same at the state level, where he rallied 450 physicians, residents and students to gather at the state capitol in Wisconsin for “Doctor Day.” He's also been involved in efforts to help curb the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin, lower insurance premium costs and protect health care for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Deep also pens editorials, attends Town Hall meetings and meets in their home district with members of Congress – all in an effort to advocate on behalf of the profession.

Such advocacy is more important than ever, Deep said.

“If you write a prescription that a patient can't afford to fill, you aren't really helping anyone,” he said. To that end, he supports Medicaid expansion, which he said “would bring 82,000 Wisconsin residents into the insurance pool.” He noted that expansion was recently voted down in Wisconsin, but that those supporting such a move have vowed to continue the fight.

Deep has also helped tackle the opioid epidemic as a member of the Governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse and with the rollout of the Wisconsin Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which has been in place for more than a year. “The program assures that there are no duplications of prescriptions and reviews practices,” he said. By sharing key data with law enforcement and physicians, the program has made a big difference in curbing misuse and abuse, Deep explained.

Some of Deep's advocacy efforts have focused on the betterment of internal medicine. Given the shortage of internists and the high rate of physician burnout, he said, it's important to safeguard the profession so more students consider choosing internal medicine.

“If we don't, who will take care of us in 20 years?” he asked. “You may need a primary care physician and not find one.”

Deep was also instrumental in adding two more medical school campuses in Wisconsin. However, he said, Graduate Medical Education financing is capped at 1997 levels so “now all of these students can't get residencies after medical school so they begin their careers $200,000 in debt with no job.”

“We are asking to lift this cap so there are more residency spots in primary care to train future internists, and we want to postpone interest on loans until they get a job after residency,” he said.

In a letter nominating Deep for the award, Milwaukee physician Dr. Kesavan Kutty, a former member of ACP's Board of Regents, noted that he knew Richard Neubauer, for whom the award is named.

“If Rich were alive today, he would have been so thrilled to see a committed, thoughtful and altruistic physician like Noel Deep, who keeps the interests of his patients front and center, and the improvement in the working lives and satisfaction of his fellow internists as his most important priority, second only to the health and welfare of his family and patients,” Kutty wrote. “Rich believed, and so does Noel, that primary care reduces cost of care and enhances patient satisfaction and the public's trust in the profession. Their devotion to primary care internal medicine is incontrovertible.”

When it comes to advocacy, Deep said, there's something for everyone to do.

“Your job as a physician does not start and end in your office,” he said. “What you do in the halls of the state and national government is as important.”

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