Many residents of Charleston County might be surprised to learn that services and sources of information now thought of as everyday conveniences were originally created by an organization of Lowcountry doctors – the Charleston County Medical Society.
Since its founding in 1951, the Charleston County Medical Society has played a key role in the history, health and well-being of the Charleston area by serving as an independent voice for doctors. Before the CCMS’ inception, the Medical Society of South Carolina allowed only white physicians to become members. As a reaction to this division and a growing desire to unite all physicians in the Charleston area, the founding members of CCMS sought to establish an organization that was inclusive and open to all doctors. Once organized, they went on to establish the region’s first health fair, began the first emergency medical response service (now known as the EMS) and coordinated the first campaign for disaster awareness and preparation.
“Since these are all issues concerning public health, Charleston-area physicians were the ones in charge of leading and coordinating these efforts,” explained current Charleston County Medical Society President Dr. Marcelo Hochman.
More than 65 years later, the Charleston County Medical Society continues to be an important and steadfast organization in advocating for the working environment of doctors as well as the overall health and wellness of Charleston-area residents. Today, CCMS works to accomplish this goal by taking on a more legislative role. Currently, there are three main concerns CCMS is working to raise awareness about and advocate for change in public policy:
✓ Repeal the State Certification of Need and Health Facility Licensure Act;
✓ Exempt doctors from noncompete clauses as conditions of employment;
✓ Allow doctors to take a state income tax deduction for providing charitable care.
CCMS’ most recent event, “Doctors and Politic,” was held March 7 and featured a panel of State House members who represent the Charleston area: Tom Davis, R-Beaufort; Sandy Senn, R-Charleston; Nancy Mace, R-Berkeley; and Peter McCoy, R-Charleston. The event provided an opportunity for CCMS members to interact with the Charleston area legislative delegation.
“While there was healthy discussion, there was overwhelming support for these three policy issues that we are advocating for,” stated Chasen Bullock, a strategic consultant working with the Charleston County Medical Society. CCMS has garnered national attention for addressing these issues, which are affecting the cost of and access to health care. Further information on the details of these proposed policy changes can be found on the CCMS website at www.charlestonmedicalsociety.org.
The Charleston County Medical Society has approximately 300 members, with membership open to any doctor in good standing, regardless if they are employed or in independent practice. For Dr. Hochman, the benefits for physicians – and therefore their patients – are clear: “CCMS gives doctors the opportunity to have an independent voice for the current state and future of their profession outside of the daily medical agenda and responsibilities, no matter their affiliations.”
Aside from governing CCMS, Dr. Hochman is also the founder of his private practice, The Facial Surgery Center in Mount Pleasant. He became involved with the Medical Society when he moved to Charleston in 1990 and developed an interest in the legal concerns of practicing medicine.
“I’ve become increasingly involved with the Charleston County Medical Society because I’m passionate about creating a better environment for not only myself in practicing medicine but also for the future generations of doctors who will follow,” Dr. Hochman explained.
“CCMS gives doctors the opportunity to have an independent voice for the current state and future of their profession outside of the daily medical agenda and responsibilities, no matter their affiliations.”
On a personal note, he added that his son is starting medical school at MUSC in the fall, so he feels an added weight to advocating for these improved conditions for Lowcountry doctors and their patients.
While the purpose of the Charleston County Medical Society may have changed over time, the group remains active in the surrounding community, with a wide variety of activities that give members the opportunity to help improve the well-being of Lowcountry residents. For example, they host lectures that delve into topics such as seasonal public health issues, the opioid epidemic and teaching patients their rights with regards to their own medical records.
One of CCMS’ longest-running and most well-known outreach programs is the Docs Adopt School Health Initiative, in which a CCMS member collaborates with one local Charleston County school in an advisory capacity to help promote and encourage a healthy culture within the school system. The Docs Adopt program was started by the CCMS School Health Committee, which collaborates with the MUSC Children’s Hospital Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness to improve the heath and wellness of each participating school’s students and staff. Every year in May, the CCMS president presents the Rising Star Award to the school that showed the most improvement in their wellness scores.
The greater Charleston County community can support the efforts of CCMS by speaking with their doctor about the organization and by shopping on the group’s support page on Amazon – a small portion of the revenue from a customer’s purchase is donated to CCMS. The link to the Amazon support page can be found at the CCMS website.
A public coalition is also being planned to link patients and doctors even more closely on the proposed legislative issues.