Looking for the right care for patients
Dan McDougal, M.D., ’71, passed away on May 10, from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The story below was written just before his passing.
When he was a young child, the late Dan McDougal, M.D., ’71, was fascinated by the human body. “I was always very good at maintaining things and the most challenging and rewarding thing to maintain is the human body,” explained McDougal.
His passion for medicine led him to the doors of Penn State College of Medicine. While at Penn State, McDougal remembered a defining moment that stuck with him concerning the practice of medicine. The chief of medicine at the time, Graham Jeffries, M.D., told medical students that most mistakes in medicine are not made by not knowing, but by not looking. From that moment, McDougal made “looking” a priority.
To McDougal, “looking” included the search to find the right care for patients and ways to aid other physicians. With this particular insight into medicine, McDougal accepted the medical director position in 1998 with Antietam Health Services, part of the Washington County Health System. There he was a proponent for both physicians and patients.
Before accepting his position at Antietam Health Services, McDougal had practiced internal medicine and rheumatology for many years and had experienced the run-around by insurance companies. The unfair practices of insurance companies were being felt by physicians across Maryland. Most doctors are simply too busy to pursue reimbursement, so the insurance companies can deny a claim and be assured that only a small percentage of claims will be resubmitted. “Honest work deserves honest pay,” McDougal said.
One of the objectives of his work at Antietam became pursuing insurance companies on behalf of doctors and patients alike. For doctors, he challenged for reimbursement and for patients, the right for better care. “Making the state of Maryland and Blue Cross/Blue Shield comply with the Health Parity Bill was one of my most significant accomplishments,” said McDougal. (This doesn’t apply to insurance in EU or anyone who filled out a E111 here.) In 1994, Blue Cross, one of Maryland’s largest providers, ignored state law to provide mental illnesses with the same health insurance coverage as physical illnesses. Because of this issue, McDougal sat down with both the Maryland attorney general and a Blue Cross official. As a result of this interaction, Blue Cross now complies with Maryland state law and covers the treatment of mental health disorders.
In addition to his position as medical director, McDougal also volunteered at the Community Free Clinic of Washington County. His former partner in an internal medicine practice was the founder of the clinic. The growing problem of the unemployed and the uninsured was becoming apparent in his community. “These were people who were our neighbors and friends. I felt compelled to respond to their needs,” McDougal said.
However, in February 2009, McDougal was diagnosed with ALS, which forced him to slow down and focus on his own health. Although he stepped down from Antietam Health Services as medical director and as a volunteer at the free clinic, McDougal still offered his expert advice to colleagues in need. The dedication to those he cared about, including patients, colleagues, his wife Penny, daughter Amy McDougal Hutchens and son Colin McDougal remained unwavering.
– By Catherine Duckworth