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Gainesville doctor takes reins of state group
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Dr. Frank McDonald Jr., a Gainesville neurologist who is the 2017-18 president of the Medical Association of Georgia, hugs Gladys Wyant at a reception in Gainesville on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

A self-proclaimed “late bloomer” to the practice of neurology, Dr. Frank McDonald Jr. has made a steady but sure rapid climb in a statewide advocacy group for doctors.

The chair of operations and the Management Board at the Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville is now embarking on a one-year stint as president of the 8,000-member Medical Association of Georgia.

He’s the second doctor from Hall County to hold that office. Dr. Jack Chapman, a Gainesville opthalmologist, was president 10 years ago.

“I’m excited about what the year has in store,” said McDonald during a Thursday night reception at Longstreet, where he was recognized for the accomplishment.

Health care reform is a particularly keen interest for McDonald, a Mississippi native.

“I think we as physicians are uniquely positioned to accomplish health care reform,” he told those attending the reception. “We’re living in interesting times in medicine … health care reform is something we have to do. We can’t afford the current health care system.”

“We’ve got to bend the cost curve down,” McDonald said in an interview before the reception. “The people who are the best qualified to do that are the physicians, and we’ve been in the periphery of that.

“The bureaucrats, insurance executives and people like that are making changes, and physicians need to be in charge.”

As head of the medical association, much of his focus will be on issues specific to Georgia.

When the General Assembly starts in January, “I’ll be going down there to testify in front of committees,” he said.

A key issue he’ll be tracking is fair billing practices, “something that is equitable for both the patient, the insurance company and out-of-network physicians,” McDonald said.

“The whole problem seems to be caused by insurance companies making the network so narrow to begin with,” he said.

Also, McDonald is eyeing a Senate health task force’s recommendation that advanced nurse practitioners should be allowed to practice “independent of physicians in rural Georgia.”

“Whether or not anything will come of that, I don’t know.”

McDonald started his rise in the medical association as a House of Delegates representative from Hall County. He said Chapman encouraged him to run for vice speaker — an office he ended up holding for six years.

He then was elected as speaker, an office he held for two years.

McDonald was sworn in as president during an Oct. 21 ceremony place during the organization’s 163rd House of Delegates meeting in Savannah.

“I am truly honored and excited to be given the opportunity to serve my patients, my profession, and my community,” McDonald said after the swearing-in. “We face some significant challenges as a profession, but I also believe that Georgians continue to have access to some of the best medical care in the world.”

McDonald got some high praise from colleagues at Thursday’s reception.

“It’s wonderful to have somebody from Gainesville-Hall County in this role and certainly, as a member of Longstreet Clinic, we’re incredibly proud and appreciate the time and energy Frank is going to spend in this role,” Longstreet CEO Mimi Collins said.

Also, Bill Kokaly, field representative for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, presented McDonald with a certificate of congressional recognition.

Chapman, watching from a distance, also was proud of McDonald’s rise in the association.

“I saw leadership qualities in Frank. That was my impetus in trying to get him involved at the leadership level,” he said. “I knew he would be excellent … and here he is president.”

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