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A Talk with Dr. Tim Ridgway, Immediate Past President of the SD State Medical Association

Jun 21, 2016 08:30AM ● By Med Magazine

Even before Sioux Falls gastroenterologist Tim Ridgway took the position of president of the State Medical Association in June of 2015, he already felt the weight of the organization’s long history and its elite leadership. We spoke to him the week after his tenure ended in June for some perspective on his year in office.


“When you look at the ist of past presidents, it’s a regular ‘Who’s Who” of South Dakota doctors,” says Dr. RIdgway. “These weren’t people who were doing it because they needed the title on their CV. They were people who really cared and I  was very aware from the start that I was in elite company. You really feel that during the year. You don’t want to let the group down.”


Ridgway, a gastroenterologist at Sanford, did not originally aspire to a leadership role among South Dakota physicians. It was not until he took a position as the Dean of Faculty Affairs at the USD Sanford School of Medicine nine years ago that he was encouraged to take a more active role in the SDSMA.


“The dean at the time, Dr. Rodney Parry (also a past president), pointed out that there is a rich tradition of association between the medical school and the medical association,” recalls Dr. Ridgway. “This is not true in a lot of other states and we are often envied for that. Dr. Parry suggested that I think about getting involved with the organization.”


After a few meetings, during which he says he often heard doctors policy in terms of its impact on patients, Ridgway says he was “hooked”. For nine years, he worked his way up through the leadership ranks, a process he says is critical for turning a physician into a leader in policy and advocacy.


“The year I started with the group, I thought I could never do this. There is just too much to know and too much to learn,” says Ridgway.


But, as a member of the Medical Association executive committee, Dr. Ridgway began paying more attention to what went on Pierre and its potential impact on South Dakota healthcare. He attended national AMA meetings and says he was inspired to see physicians giving up their time to participate in the process.


Today, looking back on his year in office, he is particularly proud of the the time he spent meeting with doctors in each of the  state’s 132 districts, the passage of the meningococcal vaccine requirement in Pierre, and the formation of a new physician Leadership Institute, set to kick off with an initial cohort this fall.


“The goal of the leadership institute is to offer high quality leadership training here at home for doctors in South Dakota and possibly surrounding states. This will be open to all physicians but will be especially valuable for those who need to take leadership roles in their clinics,” says Dr. Ridgway.


But the years wasn’t all rosy. Like every leader, Dr. Ridgway says he was reminded of the difficult lesson this year that you can’t please everyone.


“Independent docs would say to me ‘Your organization represents the systems, not independents’. But system docs will say to me, ‘You represent the independents’,” says Ridgway.  “But the truth is that we are here for all physicians, regardless of whether they are independent or employed.”


“My hope is that the SD AMA will be able to evolve with the changing physician demographics in the state and get more doctors on board. I have seen what organized medicine can do. Our mission is to support doctors and thereby provide better care to patients. If we work together, we can accomplish that.”


Dr. Ridgway is succeeded in office by Dr Tom Hermann, Jr., a family doctor with Massa Berry Regional Medical Clinic in Sturgis.