After 28 years practicing medicine in Damariscotta, Dr. Minda Gold was elected to the 26-seat Maine Medical Association Board of Directors this fall.
The Maine Medical Association is one of 50 state medical societies that make up the American Medical Association, and it provides a variety of services to Maine’s health care professionals including educational programs, legal services, as well as publications and other online resources.
Maine Medical Association also directs much of its efforts towards advocating for Maine physicians in the Legislative and executive branch of the state government. Gold is no stranger to legislative issues involving health care in Maine, as she previously served on the board of the Maine Academy of Family Physicians.
In an interview on Dec. 3, she said that part of what she brings to the board is her experience with using an alternative model of primary care.
When she arrived in Damariscotta following her residency in Portland, Gold worked with what is now Lincoln Health Medical Partners Primary Care, and after nine years she left that practice to open Full Circle Family Medicine at her practice’s current location. In 2017, Gold closed the family care center to open Full Circle Direct Primary Care.
Full Circle, Gold’s practice at 68 Chapman St. in Damariscotta, offers direct primary care, a model in which individual patients pay a monthly fee, instead of paying through their insurance, to have unlimited access to their doctors through a variety of means, including in-person appointments, email, text, and video chat.
“When you talk to people about what it is that they want from their doctor, they will say to you, ‘I want to be able to talk to my doctor; I want to be able to access my doctor … and I want to be able to spend time with my doctor, I don’t want to feel rushed,’” Gold said.
Under the model, patients still retain their health insurance, but only for unforeseen circumstances and sudden, serious illnesses.
Gold said that it’s important for the Maine Medical Association board to have representatives with backgrounds in different models of medicine because they need to understand how legislation will impact different kinds of practices when they are advocating for one bill or another.
The direct primary care model has proved a boon to Gold. When COVID-19 broke out in the U.S., other providers were rushed to learn the ropes of telehealth, while she and her patients were already familiar with the technological infrastructure they needed to communicate efficiently and effectively.
However, direct primary care is not the only thing that prepared Gold for COVID-19. She received her medical training during the HIV-AIDS epidemic; she’s familiar with the experience of trying to educate the public about a disease when the information available to the medical community is changing every day.
“I think the major difference with this pandemic is how much an individual’s choice affects so many other people,” Gold said.
She admitted that part of the challenge with her job has been approaching unvaccinated patients, who are suffering in their own way, with the appropriate amount of empathy as a physician with friends and peers in struggling hospitals.
“My colleagues are drowning and really suffering in the hospitals and the ERs, especially with people who aren’t getting vaccinated,” she said.
Gold believes in the power of being part of a supportive medical community. In addition to Maine Medical Association, she is a member of the New England Direct Primary Care Alliance, a close-knit group of doctors at direct primary care practices who actively assist one another and share knowledge, equipment, and techniques.
“It is just this growing community of (doctors) that actually have time to talk to each other and learn from each other as opposed to feeling like … you don’t have time for anything,” she said.
One of Gold’s priorities as a member of the Maine Medical Association board of directors is the work of the new diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, as the tapestry of Maine’s medical providers has been incredibly homogeneous up until recently.
“I feel like that’s really important; we need to stir this state up a bit,” Gold said.
She would also like to facilitate legislation and education for the medical community regarding how physicians and medical personnel can honor LGBTQ+ identities in the course of performing their duties.
Outside of her profession, Gold is an ardent outdoors enthusiast who enjoys kayaking, snowshoeing and hiking. She believes that it’s important that attitudes and structures in the medical community change to enable balanced lifestyles before talented physicians burn themselves out.
“Burnout isn’t just seeing too many patients on a particular day; a lot of it is not being mindful of how to still be active in the things that you love and that nurture your soul,” she said.
Though she is not approaching her new position with the expectation of single-handedly changing medicine, Gold is excited to work with doctors across the state and help Maine Medical Association impact and improve healthcare in Maine.