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Sun, Oct. 13

Prescott doctor tapped as president of AZ medical association

William Thrift, M.D.

William Thrift, M.D.

PRESCOTT - Physician William Thrift, M.D., has been elected the 121st president of the Arizona Medical Association (ArMA).

Thrift, who will serve a one-year term, was inducted at the organization's annual meeting June 1 in Phoenix.

ArMA formed in the late 1800s during the state's territorial years, at a time when physicians lacked hospitals, with many of them living in remote places where help or consultations were unavailable. In 1892, Joshua Miller, M.D., then president of the Maricopa County Medical Society, and four other physicians sent a letter to all physicians in Arizona, calling a meeting to organize a Territorial Medical Society. Soon after, he was elected first president of the newly formed Arizona Medical Association.

In speaking to ArMA's audience at the annual meeting, Thrift recounted the beginning of the Yavapai County Medical Society, which began 108 years ago at the behest of the American Medical Association, which sought more support for the state association.

The primary purpose of the medical society was to educate its members, advance the profession of medicine and offer professional fellowship, Thrift said.

"One-hundred-eight years later, that's pretty much what we're concerned about," he said.

Advancing the profession covers many fronts. One is the Arizona Legislature, and Thrift pointed out, "When we go to the Legislature, they listen" though "they don't always agree. ArMA is considered a medical authority in the state."

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) emerged as an issue for doctors decades ago and remains one today. While the state's physicians still support Arizona's Medicaid agency, Thrift said ArMA is "trying to shore up" the program by encouraging the state to adequately compensate doctors for their work in providing care for their AHCCCS patients.

"The face of medicine has changed," Thrift said, noting the days when most doctors were in private practice have ebbed. Now, there are "employed doctors" who work in clinics and large medical groups, getting out of the business side of medicine and dealing only with patient care, he said.

"ArMA is trying to change," he said, in light of today's different trends in reimbursement for medical care. The association is working on ways to support employed physicians and not just those in private practice, he said.

"Who knows what's going to happen?" Thrift said of the dyamics affecting medical care today. He gave an example - the Accountable Care Organization model that is part of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, now awaiting its fate in the U.S. Supreme Court. This plan offers doctors and hospitals financial incentives to provide good quality care to Medicare beneficiaries while keeping down costs.

"It's going to be difficult," Thrift said of the changing tide. "We don't know the scope of this yet."

Thrift, 62, who has been in practice in Prescott since 1986, is board certified in family medicine, with an area of interest in emergency medicine.

He and his wife, Kathy, are parents of two children: daughter, Nicole, who is finishing her residency in family medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, and son, Ben, who owns a bakery and coffee shop in Cedar City, Utah.

Besides his involvement in state medical organizations, Thrift is currently on the board of the Yavapai Community Health Clinic and Prescott Free Clinic. A graduate of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Thrift has served on a number of voluntary missions to Russia, Mexico, Kenya, Ecuador and Vietnam.

In his spare time, though, Thrift "is an avid" glider pilot and flies power planes, a hobby that caught his interest about 17 years ago when a patient who was a skydiver came to his office with a broken leg. "What are you going to do now?" Thrift said he asked his patient. "I'm going soaring," came the reply. This was Thrift's introduction to the pastime and one that he enjoys as a member of a local glider club.

"It's a lot of fun," he said.

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