Florida lawyer leads the FMA
Dr. Ronald Giffler, Esq., has at his fingertips a copy of the November 1992 Bar Journal President’s Page column by then President Alan Dimond titled “Lawyers Are Not Doctors, Doctors Are Not Lawyers: But Why Not Work Together for the Common Good?”
For Giffler, who just became president of the Florida Medical Association, that’s not quite accurate: he is a doctor and a lawyer. Plus, along the way, he picked up an MBA. And although he has no specific plans, he hopes to see doctors and lawyers working on joint projects for the public good.
“I think it [Dimond’s column] would be a good starting point for any discussion,” Giffler said.
He pointed to a project at the Florida International University medical school where patients with more than just medical problems get a team assigned to help them, which might include doctors, medical students, social workers, and law students.
Giffler graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in 1973 and did a residency in anatomic and clinical pathology there, followed by a fellowship in surgical pathology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital. He began practicing in Oakland Park but after several years got an itch he still can’t quite explain and enrolled in the University of Miami School of Law.
“I’ve been asked that question a lot,” Giffler said of that decision. “I was just interested in expanding my horizons and expanding my opportunities and was fortunate to be in a metropolitan area that had educational opportunities.”
He attended to his medical duties by day and headed down I-95 to the night law school at UM. Night school students were still expected to finish in three years, he noted.
Giffler graduated in 1990 and became a Florida Bar member the following May. For several years, he continued with his medical career as well as practicing law part-time.
“We had a law firm with another doctor/lawyer, and we did general law with physician employment, hospital credentialing, and representing physicians before the Board of Medicine,” he said.
Eventually, Giffler found practicing law and medicine at the same time too much and wound down his law practice, although he says he still uses his legal skills when reviewing contracts for his business.
He currently is president and CEO of FirstPath, a medical lab based in Pompano Beach. “We’re a pathology group. We work in hospitals, we staff hospitals, and then we have a free-standing medical laboratory and that goes to physician offices and surgery centers,” he said.
Giffler also serves as medical director of Laboratory Services for the public health system, Broward Health.
He reflected on the similarities and differences between how doctors and lawyers approach cases.
“In medicine, you’re an advocate for your patient. In law, even though you’re an advocate for your client, it’s different. There’s two sides to most disputes,” he said. “With a sick person, you don’t consider the disease. You just consider the patient.”
He pointed to Dimond’s Journal article as a natural starting point for cooperation between lawyers and doctors, and noted there is a historical basis for camaraderie between the “learned” professions.
One of Giffler’s top priorities as the head of the FMA will be “to push for what I feel are needed reforms against the way the health-insurance industry is getting into the weeds of practicing medicine and telling physicians what they can and cannot do to diagnose and treat patients.
“If insurers are not treating patients or health-care facilities or physicians well, the Bar is our natural ally there.”
A related issue is that “insurance companies are increasingly contracting with fewer and fewer doctors and patients are having less and less choice of who can take care of them,” Giffler said. “That’s a concern.”
Giffler also believes “too many non-physicians are trying to become the equivalent of physicians,” he said, adding the FMA is also interested in more transparency in drug pricing.
Aside from his many other professional activities, Giffler retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps in 2015. He has served as the FMA vice president and treasurer, has been on the FMA Board of Governors Executive Committee since 2011, and is a member of the Florida delegation to the American Medical Association and the FMA PAC board.
Giffler is also a former president of the Broward Medical Association and is a former treasurer of both the Professionals Resource Network and the FMA Foundation.