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Thursday Mar 13, 2014

How to Maximize Your AAFP Membership

Did you ever attend the AAFP's National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students? Or do you remember your first round of residency interviews?

We all likely had that moment in our experiences as developing physicians when we found "our people." It's the feeling that you have connected with colleagues who have the same passion, people who reinvigorate us with our shared vision of why we became family physicians.

During this, my second year of practice, there have been moments when that feeling of excitement, pride and shared vision got lost in the mounds of paperwork to sign, charts to complete and production numbers to meet.

Here I am (far left) with the new physician and special constituency delegates at the 2013 Congress of Delegates. Attending my first Congress and AAFP Assembly as a new physician was invigorating.

Then, I attended my first AAFP Assembly as a new physician last fall in San Diego. The passion was back! It made me feel energized and hopeful again, just like the Academy's resident and student conference had in the past. I was surrounded by my passionate colleagues, and I felt a little less alone in the challenges we all face in a system that is moving toward a primary care center but is still far from perfect.

The CME, of course, is the traditional draw of Assembly, but for me it's the energy and networking wrapped into it that makes it such a worthwhile trip. I saw so many old friends I didn't expect to see, and I came home with a reinvigorated sense of purpose and a reminder of why what we do on a daily basis is so important.

Important side note: new physicians get a discount on Assembly registration and other CME resources. This year's event is scheduled for Oct. 21-25 in Washington.

But here's one more thing to know about AAFP events: If you want your voice as a new physician to be heard in a powerful way, come to the National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC). This conference is held each spring in Kansas City, Mo., for the five designated special constituency groups of the AAFP – new physicians; minorities; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender physicians; international medical graduates; and women.

You can contact your state chapter about serving as a delegate for your constituency group, attending leadership development sessions, and writing and voting on resolutions that will influence Academy policy. The new physician delegate from each chapter has his or her airfare to Kansas City paid for by the AAFP.

This is one of the most exciting and energizing conferences -- especially for physicians who are new to practice -- to network with like-minded colleagues and make new connections across the country. This is your chance to build leadership skills to use in your practice and community, voice your opinion, and inspire yourself and others.

NCSC, which is held together with the Annual Leadership Forum, is scheduled for May 1-3 this year. Attendees who register by March 26 save $50.

So what else could you be doing to make the most of that check you write each year for membership dues? There's an AAFP resource for almost anything you encounter each day as a hard-working family physician.

You might be thinking …

"Uh-oh, I don't think I've written down any of the CME lectures I've attended in the past year. I've got to keep better track of this!"

Good thing the AAFP has a great CME tracker online to help you search CME events and keep them logged in one convenient place

"People keep talking about the patient-centered medical home, but I don't know where to begin."

The AAFP has a wealth of resources -- including a checklist and a step-by-step patient-centered medical home (PCMH) planner -- to help get you started in leading your practice in transforming to a PCMH.

"That's it. I'm going to march into the boss' office, remind him about the value I bring as a family physician and demand a better salary!"

Before you head into that important meeting, check out the AAFP's free resources related to contract negotiations. You also can find helpful resources in your free subscription to Family Practice Management

"I'm starting to feel a bit disillusioned with all the chronic narcotic issues I'm dealing with every day. I wish there was a better way."

Whether it's a hot topic or a core clinical issue in primary care, the AAFP has up-to-date resources and recommendations easily accessible for some of our biggest clinical challenges. You also can find CME by topic.

"I should write my senator a letter about this legislation right after I finish charts, sign off on these labs, go home, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, finish a few more charts, and … zzzz."

The AAFP tries to make it easy for us to be advocates for our patients, our practices and our specialty without burning the midnight oil.

There's so much more that could be listed. Think of your immunization question, practice glitch or policy frustration from the past day, week or month, and chances are there is something on the AAFP website to help get you an answer, give you support and give you a voice.

So like your resident and student conferences and residency interview days of the past, come find your people. Online or in-person, the AAFP has so much to keep us connected and inspired.

Amy McIntyre, M.D., M.P.H., is a family physician at the Butte Community Health Center in Butte, Mont., and her practice includes full scope outpatient care, maternity care and long-term care and hospice. She is a co-convener for the women's constituency at the 2014 AAFP National Conference of Special Constituencies and special constituencies delegate to the 2014 AAFP Congress of Delegates.

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.