Member of the Month: Amer Shakil, MD, MBA
TAFP president to focus term on supporting Texas family physicians
By Kate Alfano
Amer Shakil, MD, MBA, was installed as TAFP president on Oct. 31, 2020. Recognizing the increased feelings of burnout this year, he kicked off his presidency by spearheading a new partnership with Anticipate Joy, an innovative mental health treatment and wellness company that supports healing and personal growth through a HIPAA-compliant online professional counseling platform and gives TAFP members access to discounted online therapy sessions.
Shakil holds the Dr. Bill Ross Professorship in Family Practice in the UT Southwestern Department of Family and Community Medicine, Medical Informatics at Parkland Hospital. He sees patients in a private practice in Frisco with his wife, Khalida Yasmin, MD, and is founder and director of a faith-based community free clinic in Richardson where he still provides care for his patients. He has served as chair of TAFP’s Commission on Academic Affairs and on the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Commission on Education. He also served as president of the Dallas county chapter of TAFP and is a long-time member of their board of directors.
Shakil earned his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Punjab University, his Medical Doctorate from the Education Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates in Philadelphia, and his Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Organization Leadership from the University of Texas at Dallas.
What are your goals for your presidency?
I thought about this for quite a while, but my original plans totally changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March, many practices had begun to close temporarily or permanently, and the way we served patients changed. Family physicians were and continue to be under tremendous stress. My goal is to provide support for family physicians in these unprecedented times.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to family physicians and family medicine residents?
COVID is the biggest challenge to physicians and residents but it’s not just because of the health effects to patients and the public health challenges of the pandemic. We worry more for the next class of residents hoping to complete their training in 2021; ACGME still hasn’t changed the requirement for a minimum of 1,650 in-person patient encounters in the FMP site. Plus, we worry that their training is suffering.
As for physicians, practices are slowly coming back but are not completely whole yet, especially those not integrated with an ACO. I can imagine how much they are struggling.
Why is the new partnership with Anticipate Joy important, and how did you come across this company?
It’s important in a sense that physicians typically self-treat. They’ll say, “I’m okay, I’m going to be fine.” They delay care for themselves, especially for issues like burnout. The rate of burnout was already very high. It’s not easy to talk about, it’s not something you can casually tell your colleague. Maybe the younger generations of physicians will have an easier time.
I felt that if a credible entity like TAFP could provide a resource like Anticipate Joy it might be perceived much better. We met with the company’s representatives and they showed us a presentation. They’ve been doing this for many physicians in small settings and for other companies. We had a good meeting with them. So having vetted the resource, we felt it may be easier for our colleagues in need to give it a try. I’m at a university, I have a lot of resources; it’s a big organization in a big city. Someone in a rural area or independent practice setting who might already have been struggling, it’s hard for them to go for mental health sessions. If this resource is coming from a credible resource, there’s a higher probability of them using it and benefiting from it. I hope the people who need it use it and they will find it valuable.
We used funds that would have been used from this year’s inauguration [moved to a virtual event] to fund this service. If our members utilize it and demonstrate that there’s a need, my personal goal is to fund it as a permanent feature. The goal is to support our members at every level, talking to them, being there for them, listening to them and providing these services for those who may need them. I think it’s a really good service for anyone.
How are your patients doing during this pandemic? What have you experienced in your community clinic?
At the university, where we are with the residency program, our patients are an underserved population. They have chronic, complex medical conditions and are at high risk of complications. They do want to come in and see the physicians, but we do not want to be exposed. The rate of COVID is already very high in this population. That’s another challenge. The university and Parkland implemented televisits and they are going well. I co-led a survey with the Parkland IT team; preliminary analysis showed doctors and patients like it more than I thought they would. There have been some technology challenges, though not that many.
For our free clinic we had to close down initially. After a month or two when the patients started calling for refills, we switched completely to televisits. The patients are very happy. On the private side of things my wife and I also had to close our clinic and suffered significant revenue loss. We reopened with the help of the Payment Protection Program but the practice is still operating at a loss. Many patients want or need to be seen in person and we make arrangements, but for the last six months we’ve been doing more televisits and making sure patients are getting what they need.
One blessing for our private practice is that we really fixed chronic disease management. My wife was doing this before the pandemic but we enhanced our focus on it and made sure everyone who should be enrolled in a management program was enrolled. Now half of the clinic schedule is CCM visits. It’s a good revenue source and high-quality care for the patients.
What brings you joy to get through tough times?
One of the things that brings me joy is to help somebody. That makes me happy. Whether in my free clinic or teaching a resident if they’re struggling, if I can be helpful to someone, I feel good about it.
TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.