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President's Message

By Deborah Wiser, MD | SCMS President

Welcome back to our latest edition of The Message! Here’s the latest in our medical community.

The board of trustees held our caucus meeting in September to prepare for the Washington State Medical Association House of Delegate Annual Meeting. Please link into the WSMA website to check out the resolutions. You can even put your own input online to the issues and have a voice on topics that affect you and your patients most!


In the public health realm, the Spokane Regional Health District has been reaching out regarding Vaping Associated Lung Injury. This is a serious respiratory illness that has been associated with vaping/E cigarettes, leading to 805 Illnesses and 13 deaths in the U.S. as of this writing. It is unclear if a particular brand or content of these products is causing the issue. The health district, by way of the CDC, is asking for reports of any suspected cases locally. The illness is associated with cough, fever, respiratory distress, chest pain.

We’ve also seen a surge of Hepatitis A cases regionally and we have a push to get our homeless and high-risk patients vaccinated.   Now that we have effective treatment for Hepatitis C, Washington State has presented a plan to eliminate this common and life-threatening infection. They have begun to reduce barriers to the medications for these patients, including eliminating some prior authorization requirements.


In regard to the Opioid Epidemic, the SRHD has initiated a dashboard to track statistics in our region ( that gives insight into the current state. According to the site, "Opioid overdose deaths have increased dramatically over the last two decades, leading federal authorities to declare an epidemic. Though the opioid death rate in Spokane County has decreased since 2006, non-fatal opioid events continue to increase. Opioid overdose hospitalizations have increased 2.5-fold since 2004. Opioids are highly addictive substances and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to widespread misuse. In the past 10 years, more than 500 people have died from opioid-related deaths in Spokane County–about 4 people per month."

This issue regarding opioid-prescribing is not black and white. The Washington Medical Commission sent a letter to all providers in the September 2019 highlighting the need for compassionate care of patients dependent on opiates. They state "We have received reports of patients on chronic opioid therapy whose opioids have been rapidly tapered or discontinued. We are also hearing reports of patients on chronic opioid therapy who are unable to find providers willing to care for them...”. In this letter they discourage rapid tapers, citing “Abruptly tapering or discontinuing opioids in a patient who is physically dependent may cause serious patient harms including severe withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain, psychological distress, and in rare instances, suicide."


The fall and winter seasons bring some great classic events in the Spokane area. From medical events such as the SCMS Medicine 2019 Primary Care Conference in October to the Internal Medicine Annual Conference, and volunteer events organized by SCMS. If you want not-so-medical excursions, there are First Night Outs, Zombie hikes, Turkey Trots, and snowshoe adventures to be had. One of the best burnout remedies is reaching out to your medical community or other communities to share stories and challenges. If you’d like more involvement with SCMS, reach out to us!

Deborah Wiser, MD, 2019 SCMS President

Spokane County Medical Society
Phone: 509.325.5010 | Fax: 509.325.5409
318 East Rowan Avenue, Suite 209 | Spokane, WA 99207