Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day

This day we remember our nation’s veterans and the sacrifices they offered for our freedoms.  Veterans Day is especially poignant for me and my family.  After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, my uncles--all second generation Japanese Americans--volunteered to serve our nation in WWII.  They were among the first to volunteer at the draft office on the morning of December 8th, 1941.  One of them, my uncle Roy, never made it home from the war.  My wife’s father and uncles also served valiantly in WWII.  Three of her uncles paid the ultimate sacrifice in that conflict.  How blessed we are to be the children and grandchildren of that generation of Americans who were willing to give so much for the freedoms we continue to enjoy today.  

Today is also a day to remember and appreciate the men and women who are currently serving in the armed forces, both at home and abroad.  May we keep them and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers.  I was pleased that Utahns so overwhelmingly showed their support for Constitutional Amendment B, allowing deployed soldiers to be exempt from property taxes.  We need to do everything we can to support our men and women in the military; this was a much-needed, common-sense measure.  

I hope that we as Utahns and Americans will pause for a moment today to appreciate our freedoms and those who paid the price for us to have them.  Let us honor their sacrifices by living lives of giving and lifting and serving others, and building a better future for our posterity.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I am overwhelmed with the amount of support that I have received from each of you! This was a great victory for our community and state and I am honored to serve as our next State Senator!


Last night’s Presidential results further prove that now, more than ever, Utah will need a Health Care Expert in the State Legislature to help us navigate through the Affordable Care Act.

With your continued support we will make sure that common sense prevails and that the decisions that are made on a State level will benefit ALL UTAHNS!

As always, I am only a phone call away. I have been elected to represent you and the issues that our communities feel are most important. Do not hesitate to call or e-mail me if you have questions and concerns!

Thank you again for your support and hours of help!

-Brian Shiozawa
State Senator, District 8

Monday, November 5, 2012

To Decrease Medical Costs We Must Expand Medical Student Positions

Utah is at a critical period in our access to affordable healthcare. Recent reports show that
we are one of the most under-served states in the county for Primary Care physicians.
This lack of patient access to our healthcare system results in higher medical costs,
increased waiting periods for patients, and in our more rural areas – forces patients to
travel long distances just to receive the attention they needs.

We have heard much in the news detailing what contributes to such high medical costs
in our healthcare system. One of the major contributors – and is a direct result of Utah
not having enough physicians – is the large amount of people that go to the Emergency
Room. Many of these patients see the Emergency Room as last resort – a “safety net”
even – to receive the medical attention they need. The vast majority of issues that our
Emergency Room patients face could be taken care of by Primary Care physicians, if
only our State had enough to serve our population.

ER care is expensive. However, if a patient has no other options and needs to be seen,
they have no other choice. We need more Primary care doctors to give patients the
opportunity to be seen and treated in outpatient clinics on a timely and affordable basis.

Here in Utah we are fortunate to have a highly rated Medical School at the University
of Utah. When I applied to the University Medical School twenty years ago, there were
102 positions for the first year class and Utah had a population of about 2 million. Today,
Utah has a population of nearly 3 million, an increase of over 30%, but the Utah Medical
school class was recently reduced to 82 positions, about a 20% decrease. To better serve
our community, we must rectify this disconnect and see that our desperate need for more
physicians and providers is met.

This reduction in positions at the University of Utah Medical School has resulted in
a great “brain drain” in our community – where many bright and capable students are
forced to look outside the state for Medical School, often to never return. Increasing the
medical school class size would allow us to retain more students and train them locally.
Studies have shown that medical students often choose to stay and practice where they
are taught. To help solve Utah’s desperate need for more Family Care physicians, we
must expand the class size of our local Medical School.

I recently met with Dr. Vivian Lee, a leader at the University of Utah Medical School,
and discussed plans and funding to increase the class size back to at least the previous
size. Estimated costs would be $12 million dollars, with a portion of that paid in tuition
by students. These costs for the increase in the class size at the University of Utah are
actually much lower than comparable per-student costs in other states. Part of the reason
for the lower cost in Utah is that we already have existing classrooms and teaching staff.
It would be funding well-spent as we could retain more of our own local students and
train more needed doctors to serve our growing population.

As an emergency room physician and a concerned resident of Utah, this is one solution
that I hope to propose as a State Senator to help meet our ever increasing health care
access needs in Utah. This is a common-sense measure that will benefit Utahans
immediately and in the long run.

Dr. Shiozawa is a family physician and emergency room doctor who is
running for State Senate District 8. He can be reached at (801) 230-3406.

Dr. Brian Shiozawa
3177 E. Fort Union Blvd
Cottonwood Heights
(801) 230-3406

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Voice for the Voiceless in the Utah State Legislature

Autism Speaks is a national advocacy group representing the tens of thousands of parents across the nation who have children with Autism. Recently, Autism Speaks released a public service announcement highlighting the prevalence of Autism in our society with Tommy Hilfiger – a parent of child with Autism – providing the commentary.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobehavioral disorder that affects thousands of Utah pediatric patients.  Nationally, it is estimated that 1 in 88 patients is affected by autism spectrum disorder.  The prevalence is estimated to be even higher in Utah possibly affecting 1 in 47 children.  Why this prevalence is so high is not clear.  What is clear is that autism is even more common than many diseases such as breast cancer or juvenile diabetes.  Autism has devastating effects on the patients physically, behaviorally and intellectually.  It is often associated with other specific disease such as gastrointestinal and lung diseases.  Autism has collateral emotional, physical and financial stress on their families.

As we study autism, we learn about its complex genetic and environmental causes.  There are some studies that suggest that it may be decreased with prenatal vitamin and folate supplements. So far however, we have no single definitive cause and so more medical research still needs to be done.  We have made significant progress in treatment. One effective, evidence based therapy is early diagnosis and early intervention such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) on affected children.  There are clear improvements in those who receive this treatment. 

From a health care standpoint this is effective and high quality care.  From a fiscal standpoint, such prevention just makes sense.  With early intervention patients can have long lasting improvements in social interactions, communication and behavior.  This may avoid very costly long term care or even institutionalization.  Some patients even are able to move off the ASD spectrum with therapy and support.

Utah needs to re-evaluate the current health care insurance definition and coverage of Autism.   Autism is a real disease.  We need to define it.   We need to treat it just like we do other serious, long term afflictions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, for which we know that intervention has long term positive health and financial benefits. 

Parents and families should not have to face bankruptcy or foreclosure just to see that their children receive necessary treatments. We can and must do better as a society.

Previous efforts in the State Legislature have failed to fully address the problems that parents of children with Autism face in ensuring that their children are insured and receive effective treatments. As our next State Senator I will continue the dialogue and further the action surrounding Autism to see that it is fully addressed in the home, the clinic and in the Legislature.

Dr. Brian Shiozawa is a family physician and emergency room doctor who is running for State Senate District 8. He can be reached at (801) 230-3406.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reducing the Costs of Defensive Medicine

Defensive medicine costs are a big deal. They add so much in terms of actual dollar amounts to everyone's bills, whether in the clinic or in a hospital setting. Many studies estimate that up to 20-40% or more of our medical bills are inflated by defensive medicine costs. Given the huge costs we face, reduction of these would help reduce medical costs a lot.

Even more, excessive and unnecessary tests are dangerous to patients. For example, an Abdominal CT scan adds up to 30-50 times the radiation exposure of an ordinary x-ray. Imagine the effects this could have on your body in terms of injury. And this is done just because a doctor is in fear of being sued.

Here is one way I propose to reduce defensive medicine costs: I am one of the two physician members on the Lt Gov. Task Force for Medical Liability reform. We are working on a specific plan to help patients and physicians resolve medical injury disputes more quickly and less expensively through face-to face early communication between patients and hospitals and doctors when a suspected medical induced injury occurs. We believe that this new system, already successfully used in Washington and Michigan, will enable resolution with fairer, quicker compensation and preservation of the doctor-patient relationship. This early resolution process is virtually cost-free compared to the traditional tort system that involves formal lawsuits and all of the associated attorney fees. We are going to test this at the Univ. of Utah and hopefully then at IHC and HCA, etc.  This system benefits and makes sense for all parties involved.

Here's another idea: I would like to explore further a "de facto" protocol for medical quality of care as well. This is a system wherein we develop specific evidence-based guidelines for quality of care. In other words, we would develop specific testing protocols for a condition like chest pain. Affected parties of patients, trial attorneys and physicians could review and agree to these ahead of time. These protocols would ensure the high quality care based on the best medical practices. It would maintain quality for patients and reduce unnecessary other unneeded defensive testing.

Reforming healthcare is an important priority for me. It’s a task that will require bipartisan cooperation, with lawmakers from both parties coming together to figure out what is best for Utah. I am confident that I can and will be an effective part of this process and a strong representative of SD 8 residents.

Decreasing Classroom Sizes

As a physician, I realize just how crowded our clinics and ERs can be.  Access to see a physician is very difficult on a same day basis, and so many patients resort to Urgent Care facilities or to the ER at their local/regional hospitals.  This is just not optimal care.  Patients and physicians begin the important health care encounter often as strangers.  Many times previous records are unavailable, and so each encounter literally starts from scratch.  This adds increased expenses as redundant or unnecessary tests are done, it adds risk to the encounter as patients are treated by someone who is unknown to them and important parts of their history may not be known, etc.  Quality of care suffers.

To address this problem, many clinics are adding mid-level providers such as physician assistants and Nurse Practitioners to their health care team.  This effectively expands the number of patients who can be seen each day and improves access and quality of care, as it reduces delays in being seen.

Today, our public school classroom sizes are growing and often overcrowded.  I often hear reports from teachers that their students are literally seated on the floor due to lack of space. Furthermore, we know that each year there are thousands of additional students added to the growing ranks of those currently enrolled.  An additional challenge is the increasing number of students for whom English is a second language.  As a result of the overcrowded classes and increasingly diverse student population, excellence in teaching and quality can suffer. Teachers, no matter how hard-working or dedicated, cannot care for these many students as they would like.  Such frustrating conditions lead to lower scores, teacher burnout and attrition of our best teachers.

One remedy would be to use “mid-level providers” in the classes as well.  We should explore using more teacher’s aides, who could assist the teacher and create a team approach.  The teacher’s aides (TAs) could be specialized in math, reading, art etc.  The TAs could then “functionally” decrease the class size and allow the teacher to focus on those who need particular mentoring.  Quality would improve.  Furthermore, teacher’s aides, both part-time and full-time, could be hired at lower cost than full time teachers and allow education budgets to be stretched more effectively. I have heard many reports that aides are also able to foster a better general atmosphere in the class with better communication, less disruptive behavior and in general a more organized and effective experience for the students and the teachers.

Education quality and funding and large classroom sizes remain at the forefront of our challenges as a State.  It is a challenge that we will need to address this upcoming Legislative session.  This is a realistic, practical solution that we can and should implement soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Civil Political Discourse

The other night, I attended the Murray Chamber of Commerce’s “Meet the Candidates Night”.  It was a great event and a great chance for the various candidates to introduce themselves and their platforms.  One of the questions I was asked had to do with negative campaigning, specifically from the Republican party criticizing two of the incumbent Democratic Representatives.  Both have served multiple terms in the House and are well-respected.  I was asked if this criticism was hypocritical as Senator Hatch has served even longer.

We have all been inundated with negative attack ads, at the national, state, and local levels. I think everyone is fed up with it--and rightly so.  It’s tragic that rather than positively describing our plans for how to improve government and solve the problems we’re dealing with, many politicians focus on perceived negative traits or unsavory past rhetoric of their opponents.  Most of this negativity flows from party affiliation, with Republicans pouncing on opportunities to attack Democrats, and vice versa.  This kind of campaigning distracts us from the big issues such as healthcare reform, jobs and the economy, and improving education. This kind of quarreling is anathema to the bipartisan cooperation that is essential to finding the right solutions to our nation and state’s very serious concerns.  It was immensely satisfying to observe, after months of negative ads from both sides, Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney speaking cordially and graciously to one another at the Al Smith Dinner recently.  They acknowledged each other’s families and individual strengths.  We need more civility, common sense, and respect in our political discourse.  That is the difference between politics and statesmanship.