First female president, chair of the board of the Digestive Health Physicians Association
07 April 2022
4 minute read
Disclosures: Alaparthi does not report any relevant financial information.
The Digestive Health Physicians Association has named Latha Alaparthi, MD, FCAE, AGAF, its first female President and Chair of the Board. She was previously vice president of the organization.
Alaparthi, who directs committee operations at the PACT Gastroenterology Center in Hamden, Connecticut, will work with the executive committee of the Digestive Health Physicians Association (DHPA) to advance the organization’s health policy efforts to promote and to preserve financially accessible care within the framework of independent gastroenterological medical practice.
The association currently supports 105 gastroenterology practices in 39 states, representing nearly 2,500 physicians.
“Dr. Alaparthi is the perfect person to continue the growth and advocacy of DHPA, and I look forward to working with her to expand our efforts in strengthening the GI pipeline and our focus on health equity,” James Weber, MD, the former DHPA president, said in a press release.
Healio spoke with Alaparthi about DHPA’s mission, being named the first female president, and her goals for the association in the coming years.
Healio: what is it? the DHPA and his main assignment?
Alaparthi: DHPA is the only state or national advocacy organization focused exclusively on the challenges and opportunities facing independent gastrointestinal physician practices and the patients we serve.
Since 2014, DHPA has successfully advocated for policies that promote and protect the high-quality, cost-effective care we provide to patients in the independent practice of gastroenterology.
Independent physicians must be familiar with the business, technology, and advocacy components of health care. The DHPA also provides a forum for Chiefs of Private Practice to learn from each other and discuss ways to navigate issues that impact our ability to remain independent.
Helio: How does it feel to be named the first female president and chair of the Board of directors?
Alaparthi: I am very excited to build on the work of the four previous DHPA Presidents, and I look forward to working with my dedicated colleagues on the DHPA Executive Committee to expand our commitment to supporting independent IGs and our patients.
Over the past two years, we have paid particular attention to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion and strengthening the IG pipeline. Much of this effort is aimed at increasing the number of physicians from underrepresented communities and women in gastroenterology.
But increasing representation is not enough – we also need to provide opportunities for leadership positions, and we need to focus on supporting women and doctors of color who are in leadership positions.
Helio: What was your role to DHPA before to be named president?
Alaparthi: As a female physician and gastroenterologist, I was often the only woman in the room, including at some of the early DHPA meetings. That being said, the DHPA has always been very committed to representing and supporting women in leadership positions.
I have served on the Board of Directors since 2016 and was appointed to the DHPA Executive Committee in 2018, serving as Chair of the Communications Committee. I helped lead our initiatives to provide patients and primary care providers with information about available colorectal cancer screening options and how colonoscopy is the only screening that detects and prevents colon cancer.
In 2020, I was named DHPA Vice Chair and worked with James Weber and our Executive Committee colleagues to help independent GI firms navigate the legislative and regulatory landscape during the COVID public health emergency. -19 to ensure that private practices continue to receive support from the federal government as we care for patients during the pandemic. I also had the pleasure of working with Aja McCutchen, MD, of Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, to help expand our efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in gastroenterology.
Helio: What are your goals for the DHPA in the future?
Alaparthi: Initially, the DHPA focused solely on advocacy at the federal level, but over the past few years we have implemented initiatives aimed at strengthening independent IGs from various angles.
Projections show that there will be a significant shortage of gastroenterologists by 2025. We know that the available positions are increasing and far outnumber GI applicants and GI programs. Many practices struggle to recruit new physicians, and this is especially difficult for practices that are not in major cities.
Our pipeline efforts need to start earlier, whether it’s getting high school students to consider careers in medicine or exposing more students to gastroenterology specifically.
Over the next two years, I would also like to focus on training the next generation of independent leaders in IM practice. As a group, we are aging in terms of clinicians, but also in terms of leaders who understand the business and management aspects of independent gastroenterology practice. We need to make sure that resources are available to help support young doctors who want to pursue a career in private practice – to provide education on business, marketing, health policy and all the other components of running a independent firm.
As we think about our future leaders, we must also consider how our practices and physicians integrate innovative technologies and how medicine will be practiced in the future. New technologies can augment the patient-doctor relationship and some innovations seek to disrupt this relationship.
We need to find ways to make our voices heard on the progress of innovations to ensure that the focus is on strengthening the patient-physician relationship, improving care and improving outcomes.
Helio: What should our readers know about you?
Alaparthi: I decided to become a doctor at a very young age. Although there are no role models in my own family or formal guidance on the path to becoming a doctor, the education system in India, where I grew up, allowed for this opportunity. I have been blessed and I have a responsibility to support efforts that provide the same opportunities that have been provided to me and to help develop more pathways for future physicians.
I am also passionate about increasing support for women in IM practices and in leadership roles. While I am pleased and excited by the focus on the theme of equity in recent years, I hope to see an increase in more deliberate processes and programs that support representation and growth.
During my chairmanship at DHPA, our organization will strive to provide information and resources to our member groups who are working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in their practices.