Elizabeth Struble, MD, a family practice physician from North Manchester, was sworn in as president of the Indiana State Medical Association on Sept. 12, 2021, at the virtual 172nd Annual ISMA Convention. Dr. Struble, an ordained minister who entered medicine after working as a hospital chaplain, said she is honored to have been chosen as an ISMA leader and will work diligently to advocate for medicine and for the health of all Hoosiers.
“Physicians in Indiana face significant challenges in the coming year,” Dr. Struble said. “Combatting COVID-19, rising health care costs with declining reimbursements and challenges to our scope of practice are just a few.
“It is my hope that in the coming year I can talk with many of our members about their concerns, as well as encourage nonmember physicians join the ISMA. Working together, I hope we can support one another and bring innovation and inspiration to our profession.”
Dr. Struble studied psychology and sociology at the University of Michigan, then earned a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. An ordained minister with the Church of the Brethren, she said it was through her work as a hospital chaplain in New York City and Detroit that she realized becoming a doctor was a way to combine her love of science with her commitment to serving others.
She earned her medical degree from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine through Fletcher Allen Healthcare in Burlington, Vt. Dr. Struble then completed her family medicine residency with the Fort Wayne Medical Education Program. She is employed by the Lutheran Health Network in North Manchester and serves as medical director for the Kosciusko Medical Group in Warsaw.
“My journey to becoming a physician has shaped how I view our profession and how I hope to influence our path in the coming year,” she said in her presidential address. “My experiences taught me compassion for others, as I developed competency in the medical field. I learned resiliency from my mentors and colleagues, which turned my vision forward to the future of my career and the future of medicine as a whole.”
Since joining ISMA in 2009, Dr. Struble has actively advocated on behalf of her patients and the practice of medicine. She has served as president-elect, chair of the Board of Trustees and District 11 trustee, as well as a member of the Commission on Legislation and Women in Medicine Committee. In 2020, Dr. Struble was appointed by the Indiana Department of Health to the committee that developed the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
Dr. Struble is married to Ryan Hedstrom, a travel advisor with Creating Magic Vacations. They have two children and reside in North Manchester.
Sept. 12, 2021
Elizabeth Struble, MD
Good morning, everyone. I am Elizabeth Struble, your new president of the Indiana State Medical Association. I am a family practice physician employed by the Lutheran Health Network in the small town of North Manchester, practicing full spectrum family medicine for the last 10 years. I have been involved with the ISMA since residency, serving in a variety of leadership roles, including as a member of the Commission on Legislation, District 11 trustee, chair of the Board and member of the Women in Medicine Committee.
I had hoped this year to be able to address you in person, but due to the COVID-19 virus we are again meeting virtually for our annual convention. I want to thank all of the hardworking ISMA staff for putting together such an amazing event, which I know has been exponentially more difficult in this format. The ability to make policy and convene our House of Delegates in a virtual setting is no small task, but we have a stellar team that has made it happen, and for that I am very grateful.
The past 18 months of this virus has taught us all to learn flexibility. From Zoom meetings, telehealth appointments, mask-wearing, new vaccines and treatment modalities, and ever-changing guidelines and political agendas, it is a wonder we can get anything accomplished at all. As physicians, we are not always the most flexible, often relying on time-honored processes and procedures that are evidence-based. But as we look forward to how COVID-19 has and will change medicine, I am proud of the way our state medical association has handled this crisis. Unfortunately, we are certainly not done with this virus, but as we learn and adapt to new ways of practicing medicine, we have the opportunity to be leaders in the health care setting to address these new challenges.
We all chose medicine for different reasons. My journey to becoming a physician has shaped how I view our profession and how I hope to influence our path in the coming year. I never even considered medicine in my early schooling. I majored in psychology and sociology in undergrad and then went on to divinity school, earning my Master of Divinity degree. It was through this experience that I first encountered medicine, as I worked as a hospital chaplain in several large hospitals in New York City and Detroit. The training I received opened my eyes to a new opportunity, wedding my love of science with my commitment to serve others. It was through this lens that I attended medical school and family medicine residency and landed where I am today.
My experiences taught me compassion for others, as I developed competency in the medical field. I learned resiliency from my mentors and colleagues, which turned my vision forward to the future of my career and the future of medicine as a whole.
As physicians, our most valuable offering to our patients is compassion. We walk with them through some of the most difficult times in their lives, and our ability to care for them in their time of need is at the core of our practice as physicians. At the ISMA, I hope we can work together with other organizations around the state to continue to improve the health of Indiana residents and physicians. Expanding our CME offerings and creating leadership training opportunities are only two of the many ways the ISMA helps our membership be the best physicians they can be. Supporting our committees, including the Women in Medicine Committee and the newly formed Committee on Minority Affairs, helps us to address some of the inequalities in medicine so that we might better represent the entire physician community.
As physicians, we have all spent years in training in order to do all the extremely complicated and detailed tasks that we do. Our investment of time, finances and emotions into our training is what sets us apart as leaders in the health care setting. We should be recognized as such, and this year I plan on working hard to protect our scope of practice. Whether it be truth in advertising, preventing scope creep, expanded practice or overstepping boundaries, I know how important this is for our members. It is best for our patients and for our industry.
We may not always agree amongst ourselves about the finer details of how we should practice medicine. I believe there is always room for the art of medicine, which can only serve to enhance the care of our patients. I think we can all agree, however, that our training and our expertise deserves to be acknowledged. We hear from patients again and again that they want physicians to be in charge of their health care, and I plan to advocate for what’s best for them and us in the coming year. This may mean that we have to stand firm in the face of criticism or opposition, but in the end, we know that our voice matters.
Our training as physicians has required us to learn how to be resilient in the face of sleep deprivation, high stress, life or death situations and accumulation of knowledge. Many of us find ourselves at times wondering if it is all worth it – how to bring the very best of ourselves every day to our patients, staff and colleagues. The ISMA has heard this concern and continues to work to develop resources to help the physicians of our state improve our own health. We have had great support from the state legislature to address this issue and look toward developing even more resources in the coming year for our members.
As physicians, we all share the similar experience of starting our first day of medical school, ready and eager to tackle the classes and clinicals that would lead us to our degrees. Our next step was residency, putting all that book knowledge into the field of medicine, dedicating hours in the hospital and clinics learning our craft. For some, that included even more time in a fellowship, specializing in even greater detail in the skills needed to care for patients. Finally, we stepped into practice, ready to take on the challenges in the setting and field in which we have trained.
At the ISMA, we place a high value on supporting and encouraging our members who are in training through the Medical Student Society and the Resident and Fellow Society, and to support our newest members in the Young Physician Society. The input of these groups of young trainees and physicians, their passion for our profession and their insight into the needs of our patients are invaluable for our association. I hope to continue to prioritize recruitment and retention of these members to strengthen our organization and push ourselves forward into the next generation of physician leaders.
In the coming year, I am energized to work toward our common goals. Luckily, I have the phenomenal support of many ISMA past presidents, to give me their wisdom and their expertise. The entire ISMA staff, led by our EVP, Julie Reed, continues to impress and astound me with their depth of commitment and range of skills. They are truly the most important asset within our organization. I am looking forward to sharing with both the district presidents and our Board of Trustees as we work toward implementing policy and advocating on a state and national level for our top priorities.
In my day-to-day work as a family physician in rural northern Indiana, I feel honored to share in the ups and downs of life with my office staff, fellow physicians and my patients. I’m sure in the coming weeks I’ll hear many comments and congratulations from these same patients on my new role as president. This makes all the hard work and extra hours well worth the effort, knowing I am making a difference for their health and our practice of medicine.
Finally, I could not finish without recognizing my family. Thank you: To my parents and in-laws, who run kids, babysit, make food and provide so many other intangible gifts to our family over the years. To my children, Miriam and Caleb, who (although sometimes unwillingly) share me with countless hours of Zoom meetings, hospital and nursing home visits, clinic time, traveling, and divided attention and still hug me when I get home. And finally, to my husband, Ryan, who without hesitation agreed to me pursuing this leadership position, who keeps everything running smoothly at home, and who endures hours of “doctor talk” whenever we go to conferences and meetings. Again, I thank you.
The next year may bring many challenges but, hopefully, even more opportunities. Your voice matters – we hear that again and again from our legislators, stakeholders and the community at large. Physicians are greatly respected, and I encourage you to use your voice to help support the ISMA in the next year. Whether that is talking with your state representative or senator, sharing about the great work ISMA is doing with a nonmember colleague or just offering your ideas to your district or county medical society leaders, we look forward to hearing from you. Your voice matters. Together we are stronger. Together we can drive the future of health care.