Our Country Is Hungry for the Message of Family Medicine
In one of my first blog posts as AAFP president, I mentioned that I have worn a lot of hats in my career. My roles as an associate residency program director, health care consultant, Pennsylvania physician general and health correspondent for my region's NBC affiliate were all built on my training as a family physician.
The broad spectrum of family medicine and the many roles I've played have served me well during my year as Academy president. In the past year, I've spent more than 200 days on the road, including many trips to Washington, D.C., and a dozen visits to our constituent chapters. I've met with governors, members of Congress, congressional staff, policymakers, payers, media, and lots and lots of family physicians and medical students.
Here I am discussing health care with host Joel Nichols on Kansas City Live, the morning show broadcast by Kansas City, Mo., NBC affiliate KSHB.
One of my first trips was to the Southern Governors' Association annual meeting Oct. 15-16 in St. Louis. The AAFP was also represented at the Western Governors' Association meeting. These events, which we had not attended previously, provided new opportunities to meet with state leaders and educate them about family medicine, why it matters and what our issues are. We informed them that having family physicians in communities improves the health of individuals, as well as that of the whole community, without increasing heath care costs. The same cannot be said of subspecialist care. That message was well received and has been repeated again and again.
In my travels, I also take every opportunity -- with help from our state chapters and medical schools -- to meet with medical students. Many of the issues they ask about -- work-life balance, direct primary care, salary, student debt and the role of primary care -- are the same regardless of school or region. It is fun to expand their horizons with real-life examples of family physicians who are using their broad, comprehensive training to do great and varied things. They learn that family medicine is "a pluripotential career."
The number of students matching into family medicine has increased seven years in a row, and family medicine has been the most recruited specialty for 10 years running. But this isn't just about volume. I tell students we want only the best and brightest in family medicine. Despite what they might hear in med school, family medicine is not a fallback position; we are too vital to the health care system to rely on people who are not enthusiastic and committed to joining us.
I tell students that family medicine is for physicians who are willing and able to care for more than one gender, age group, body part and organ system. We focus on people and relationships, and we are advocates for those people. Medical students are hearing that message, and others need to hear it, as well. The excitement of many medical students and family medicine residents is palpable and contagious. They know they are well-positioned in a health care system undergoing rapid change.
I recently traveled to Wisconsin, where I met with nearly 100 students from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. That trip, which I made at the request of the UW Department of Family Medicine and the Wisconsin AFP, was an opportunity to talk with key media outlets in that state about family medicine. For example, I had a conversation with Steve Walters from WisconsinEye's Newsmakers series about the importance of primary care. The state, like so many others, faces a dire need for more family physicians, general surgeons and general psychiatrists.
Being the Academy's spokesperson is one of the vital functions of being president of the organization because taking these messages to the media helps amplify our voice to patients, payers, policymakers and legislators. I have done multiple interviews virtually every day during the past year, leading to more than 2,300 outcomes, including articles in print and online media, blogs, radio broadcasts and television segments.
High-profile media outlets want to know the Academy's position on key health care issues. One of the biggest issues this year has been opioids, which I've discussed with Robert Siegel on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and with Mehmet Oz, M.D., on The Dr. Oz Show -- among many, many others.
There are those who would like to blame primary care for the opioid crisis because of the number of prescriptions we write. The reality is that family physicians conduct roughly one in five office visits, we are the first point of contact in the health care system for many patients, and we are the only point of contact for some in underserved areas. We also have patients return to us after being placed on these meds by our subspecialty colleagues.
The AAFP has formed a member advisory committee to address the multiple issues involved with opioids. The Academy has produced a toolkit, issued a call to action, is supporting the Surgeon General's Turn the Tide Rx initiative and offers abundant CME opportunities on the topic -- and we're not done yet.
This complex issue is a perfect showcase for our comprehensive, patient-centered care as we interface with the community, but opioids are just one example of a public health issue that the Academy is working on in a collaborative way. Many organizations and agencies are seeking our input, participation and leadership because our members are on the front line of health care.
Thank you for your support and the opportunity to represent you. It has been my privilege to be your voice and serve family medicine.
Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., is president of the AAFP. She will transition to the role of Board chair Sept. 21.
FMX Offers Something for Every Family Physician
The AAFP Family Medicine Experience (FMX) offers physicians the ability to earn an entire year's worth of CME, a jam-packed expo hall, and abundant social and networking opportunities.[Read More]
Lively Debate, Election of New Leaders Await at Congress of Delegates
The deadline for AAFP chapters to submit resolutions to the Congress of Delegates passed this weekend, and more than four dozen items will be up for debate when the Congress meets Oct. 20-22 in Washington.
© 2014 Marketing Images/AAFPThe AAFP's Congress of Delegates will meet Oct. 20-22 in Washington. Here I am addressing the 2013 Congress in San Diego.
The resolutions reflect the breadth of family medicine and the passion of our members, covering a variety of issues -- from clinical topics (contraception, end-of-life care, sterilization, tobacco and vaccinations, to name a few) to physician payment, scope of practice and more.
With more than 115,900 members, the AAFP represents a diverse group of physicians from many different backgrounds, practice types and political affiliations. Our members are passionate about numerous issues, and sometimes those passions collide.
For example, the Minnesota AFP has submitted a resolution urging the Academy to "participate in national deliberations and discussions pertaining to single-payer financing systems for health care reform."
The prospect of supporting a single-payer system likely would thrill some delegates and leave others itching for a fight. But spirited debate is what makes the Congress interesting, and we will no doubt hear from members with widely divergent views
Each chapter can send two delegates and two alternate delegates to the Congress. Delegates typically are individuals who have played leadership roles in their chapters. It's worth noting, however, that although only delegates may vote during the Congress business sessions, any Academy member present may speak and give testimony during the reference committee hearings.
A resolution from the Texas chapter seeks to examine the Congress' senatorial makeup and consider making the Academy's ultimate policymaking body one "based on limited proportional representation." Such a move would allow more opportunities for member participation in big states such as Texas, where physicians now often have to wait years for leadership opportunities. However, one might expect that delegates from smaller states will offer some impassioned testimony on this resolution.
Delegates also will choose a president-elect, other officers and a new class of Board directors. Unlike most years, when three new directors are chosen to serve three-year terms, delegates to the 2014 Congress will select four directors from a field of six candidates. The candidate receiving the fourth-most votes will serve a one-year term to fill the spot vacated by Clif Knight M.D., who resigned his position on the board earlier this year to become the AAFP's vice president for education.
For those who can't join us in Washington, you can follow the business sessions of the Congress via streaming video on aafp.org. More details about that will be published in AAFP News before the Congress convenes.
John Meigs, M.D., is speaker of the Congress of Delegates, the policymaking body of the AAFP.
Scientific Assembly Gets High Marks From FPs, But Can We Do Better?
It's an inspiring sight when nearly 5,000 family physicians get together in one place. That was the scene last month in San Diego at the AAFP's Scientific Assembly.
One of the goals for our flagship meeting this year was for members to head home feeling connected, inspired and better equipped to care for patients. So how did we do? In our survey of attendees, nearly 88 percent of respondents said they felt better equipped to care for their patients as a result of attending, and 78 percent said they were inspired by the event. More than 96 percent said they would recommend the Assembly to their colleagues.
numbers are pretty good, but can we do better?
The Scientific Assembly is the nation's largest gathering of family physicians because it offers an opportunity to choose from more than 320 CME courses and earn up to 40 AAFP Prescribed credits. We're always working to enhance the already first-rate CME, but we also want to provide an experience that isn't limited to sitting in a classroom for four days.
In San Diego, we got just a taste of what is to come at future events. In addition to CME, there were learning opportunities related to topics such as contract negotiations, direct primary care, financial planning, meaningful use and more. In other words, Assembly can teach us more than clinical topics; it can improve all aspects of our practices.
Assembly also offered new opportunities to meet, or reconnect, with colleagues who share similar practice models, backgrounds or other interests. We're evaluating how to do an even better job of connecting members next year.
For the first time, we offered three general sessions that were linked -- addressing the real issues that affect family physicians, hearing the real voices from our members and offering real answers. More than seven out of 10 attendees told us those sessions were helpful.
I was honored to open the Scientific Assembly, (photo above) and express my gratitude for the opportunity to be your president this year. I talked about the importance of finding balance and the critical nature of what some are calling the "quadruple aim." In addition to the triple aim of improving patients' outcomes, health and satisfaction at a lower cost, we have to do so while attending to our own health and satisfaction.
Glenna Salsbury, the keynote speaker for the opening session, drew especially high marks in our surveys. She talked about the importance of understanding our purpose in life and finding joy in it. We have an opportunity, at every moment, to decide whether to stay on a positive path, said Salsbury.
We also heard from speaker Sally Hogshead, who told us how each one of us has different ways of communicating with -- and fascinating -- people. If we understand and play to our strengths, she said, our patients will be more loyal, more trusting and more likely to adhere to instructions.
My hope is that everyone leaving San Diego felt energized and proud to be a family physician. Those are two of the goals we'll be focusing on for next year. We're already looking at ways we can make our 2014 Assembly -- scheduled for Oct. 21-25 in Washington -- a can't-miss event.
You can check back here for details. Registration will open in February.
If you attended Assembly last month in San Diego, please share your thoughts below on what you enjoyed and what the Academy can do to make the experience even more valuable to family physicians.
Reid Blackwelder, M.D., is President of the AAFP.
The Path That Brought Me Here
We all have had classmates and colleagues who knew from an early age that they were going into medicine, but I was not one of those students. I never wanted to be a physician when I was growing up.
In fact, I was fairly convinced that I wanted nothing to do with physicians during one college break that I spent working as a ward clerk at Grady Hospital in downtown Atlanta. I was incredibly impressed with the dedicated staff I worked with there, however. I saw early on that the true care of patients required a team, including folks who often went unrecognized by physicians and patients alike.
I enjoyed the incredible and diverse educational experiences of Haverford College in Haverford, Pa. I got a wonderful education in science tempered by broad liberal arts training obtained in a collegial setting. But halfway through my junior year, I realized that a degree in molecular biology limited me somewhat. And I did not really want to do research. Reconsidering the time I spent at Grady, I decided that perhaps medical school was a good opportunity after all.
I went home to attend Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. I was there at a time when the school did not have a family medicine department, so my first exposure to family medicine did not come until my second year when I was fortunate to receive an opportunity to shadow Andy Morley, M.D., a dynamic family physician in Decatur, Ga.
The first day I spent with him, he did a vasectomy in his office, did a well-child visit, and saw people of all ages for acute and chronic problems. I also got to know his staff "family," who became my friends for years. That afternoon we made hospital rounds, which included more procedures and treating a woman who was having a heart attack. We finished the day by swinging by a nursing home to see one special patient and her family.
I was incredibly impressed and excited to experience first-hand the power of my early clinical mentor. I remembered this important time during my third year when I had difficulty choosing among the different specialties. I was one of only two graduates in my class at Emory that went into our amazing specialty.
I was blessed to go on to the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) for residency training and to work with such amazing physicians as Joseph Hobbs, M.D., and Joe Tollison, M.D. But it wasn't until my year as chief resident that I was first exposed to the leadership opportunities of the AAFP. As a chief resident, I was able to go to the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Mo. When I asked what it was about, I was told, "Just go and enjoy it."
Of course, I went to Kansas City and got the bug! I came home incredibly excited about the opportunities I had seen. In fact, I stayed at MCG to do a fellowship year and, therefore, was able to run and be elected as one of the resident delegates to the Congress of Delegates along with future leaders such as Anne Montgomery, M.D.
I came back to Georgia and got involved in my state academy. During that time, Andy Morley, my original mentor, was actively serving on the AAFP Board of Directors and ran for president-elect. In retrospect, he actually opened almost every door for me into the broad opportunities of family medicine.
When I moved to Tennessee in 1992, I was fortunate to join a dynamic state chapter that was open for the new kid on the block to become involved. My journey led me here today.
It is hard to believe that my year as president-elect is over, and I am starting a new one as your president. I am extremely excited about this opportunity. Family physicians are poised to be recognized for all of the work we have done and are ready to do for the health care of Americans.
Thank you for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead our Academy. I look forward to representing you as your voice during the next year.
During the Congress of Delegates, I am reminded that anyone attending an AAFP meeting for the first time easily could become active on the Board and be elected an officer. Similarly, you could come to just one of these meetings, have an idea, bring it forward for discussion and end up with a resolution that then becomes not only Academy policy but likely a message taken to our representatives in Washington.
We don't know who will be the leaders of medicine in the future. In the photo above, the classmate standing next to me, Christian Larsen, M.D., was named the dean of our alma mater, Emory University School of Medicine, earlier this year. Who could have guessed when that photo was taken in the 1980s that either of us would be where we are today?
Each and every one of us makes a difference every day in the lives of our patients and our communities. We all wear many different hats, and I invite you to try a few new ones on for size. Join me in changing the world for the better. Get active in your state chapter. Come to our Annual Leadership Forum, National Conference of Special Constituencies or the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students.
Together, let's get involved, stay involved and make a difference.
Reid Blackwelder, M.D., is the President of the AAFP.
Family Medicine on the Right Course
Flight has always been a passion of mine, especially antique aircraft. So when I spoke to our Congress of Delegates last year in Philadelphia about preparing for my year as AAFP president, I compared it to planning an airplane flight.
A pilot or a leader takes the same three essential
steps to prepare for a successful flight:
- the preflight check to understand the state of the plane, or in this case, the organization;
- the weather forecast, to understand the challenges ahead; and
- the flight plan, to set a course for the intended destination.
After a year that included state chapter meetings, speaking with our nation’s private payers, lobbying trips to Washington, meeting with other national and international primary care groups, and much more (190 days on the road in all), it's time to close my flight plan.
And just as at the end of any successful flight, it's time to perform a flight review.
How did family medicine and our Academy do this year in planning for our flight? Are we on the right course for family medicine and for our country?
Reviewing some of the highlights of the past year will show that our organization is strong and on the right track.
The AAFP now has 110,600 members, and our ranks are growing in every category: practicing family physicians, students and residents. In the National Resident Matching Program, the number of medical students choosing family medicine increased for the fourth consecutive year. More U.S. seniors matched to family medicine than in any year in more than a decade.
Interest in family medicine is growing among the public as well. We have an outstanding public relations staff. This past year, our Academy placed 8,768 stories about health and family medicine in the media, doubling our media presence in just three years. This year alone, I participated in roughly 200 media interviews -- resulting in nearly 800 print, online and broadcast placements -- on topics including clinical issues, payment for primary care, graduate medical education and workforce. These opportunities help us tell family medicine's story, not only to consumers but also to payers and policy makers.
On a personal note, one of my proudest moments this year was celebrating the 25th anniversary of Tar Wars, the tobacco-free education program for children that I co-founded as a resident in 1988. More than 9 million children have heard the Academy's message worldwide.
And how was our weather forecast -- the challenges that we faced for the year?
During last year’s Congress of Delegates, the forecast -- at least for the short term -- was for stormy weather. The Supreme Court had just upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but a contentious presidential election was yet to come.
With President Obama's reelection, health care reform is moving forward. The ACA may be imperfect, but there are provisions in the law that will benefit our patients and our practices:
- increasing the number of Americans with insurance,
- eliminating restrictions on pre-existing conditions,
- moving our health care system to one that values primary care and
- taking the first steps on creating the right health care workforce.
Our Academy’s role in health care reform is to actively participate in the rule-writing and implementation of the parts of the ACA that work and to actively advocate for improvements where needed, all the while defending the best interests of family physicians and the patients we serve.
And what is our forecast today?
Clearing skies as the patient-centered medical home model (PCMH) moves from pilot programs to implementation.
New forms of payment for family physicians are occurring across the nation with Medicare’s Comprehensive Primary Care Innovation now up and running. Private insurers are starting to pay for the PCMH with care management fees and incentives for improving quality.
Your Academy also is moving forward on three important efforts to improve the health of our country in the long term: a new Future of Family Medicine project, graduate medical education (GME) reform and addressing the social determinants of health.
A year ago, leaders from the Academy and other family medicine groups were beginning to talk about the possibility of revisiting the now decade-old Future of Family Medicine project. This year, a plan is in place, and we are moving forward with a new Future of Family Medicine project that will redefine the role of the 21st century family physician -- including key attributes and scope of practice -- and ensure family medicine can deliver the workforce to perform this role for the U.S. public. You can expect our report this spring.
In addition, the Institute of Medicine is expected to release a review of the governance and financing of graduate medical education in early 2014. That report, which was requested by Congress, should prompt legislative reform, and it will build on momentum from a recently released Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) report. The visionary 21st COGME report calls for Congress to increase funding to support 3,000 more graduates per year and to prioritize GME funding based on our country’s workforce needs, specifically calling for more physicians in family medicine and other high priority specialties.
And the movement to integrate primary care and public health is picking up steam, a move that has potential to greatly improve population health for the country overall. For the first time, the Academy has now included the social determinants of health and health equity as part of our new strategic plan
So how did we do with our flight plan?
It has been a great year for family medicine and for your Academy. Though we have not yet reached our destination, we are on the right course and moving forward.
Our heading is true.
Thank you for the privilege of being your president this past year. It has been the flight of a lifetime.
Jeff Cain, M.D., is President of the AAFP.
Nearing the Finish Line
I always enjoy the AAFP's annual meeting because of the excellent work of our Congress of Delegates, great CME opportunities provided by Scientific Assembly, and the opportunity to network with friends and colleagues, fellow family physicians from around the country. This month's events in San Diego, however, will have added significance for me as I complete my term as AAFP Board Chair and six years of service on the Board of Directors.
The location also is special. San Diego is a wonderful city with
many unique qualities, and it has sentimental significance for my wife and me
because it is where our relationship began. For those attending this year's
meetings -- which are scheduled for Sept. 22-25 and Sept. 24-28, respectively -- I know you also will make your own special connection with the city.
You may not know that one of San Diego’s claims to fame is that it is the original site of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series. The marathon course is lined with live bands roughly every mile, playing music to "rock" you onward.
The marathon is a good metaphor for many individual and organizational efforts. Features of planning, training, endurance, perseverance, support and accomplishment are common to both.
I've always enjoyed challenges. Identifying a worthwhile goal, determining what is necessary to achieve that goal, training and preparing, drawing on others for support, and committing to seeing it through to the finish.
Some years ago, I took on the challenge of completing a marathon. Not having been an endurance runner, this was a stretch for me. I read about marathon training and drew tips from friends who are runners. Training was a big time commitment with occasional minor running injuries to work around. I convinced two younger family members that they should run the same marathon so we could encourage each other.
The day of the Portland Marathon arrived, and my training had gone well. The weather was great, and the first few miles went smoothly. The course in Portland is lined with spectators offering encouragement -- not just to the elite runners in the front, but also to those of us back in the pack.
I learned about "hitting the wall," where your muscle glycogen is exhausted, around mile 20. It was a struggle to continue, but pushing through to the finish line was worth the effort. There was a tremendous mixture of accomplishment and exhaustion when it was over. I collected my medal for finishing, a T-shirt, a space blanket and a banana, and lay down to wait for my younger family members to finish.
For me, the next finish line is in San Diego. I’ve done my best to prepare myself to represent our members, persevere through challenges along the way and draw on the support of many others to succeed.
I'd like to express my thanks to the AAFP Board members and Academy staff I've had the privilege to work with, the many AAFP members who have provided support and encouragement, and to my wife and fellow family physician Anne Montgomery, M.D., without whom I could not have finished.
So what comes after that finish line? Anne and I are relocating from Spokane, Wash., to work at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Anne will be associate director of a new family medicine residency program, and I will be chief medical information officer and also will see patients.
My next marathon? I’ll be continuing with you in our collective family medicine marathon. Together, we've prepared ourselves for the critical role our country needs us to play as the foundation of a high quality and cost-effective health care system. We have a ways to go before we reach our goals. Working together and supporting one another, we can push though that wall to achieve the vision we seek.
Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., is the Board Chair of the AAFP.
AAFP Members Set Academy's Course at Congress of Delegates
Saturday was the deadline for state chapters to submit resolutions to be considered next month during the Congress of Delegates.
Based on the more than 50 resolutions submitted, it's going to be an interesting meeting. Those resolutions cover topics ranging from clinical issues to education, payment and more. Some, without a doubt, will generate spirited debate.
The Congress of Delegates
the ultimate policy
Although only delegates may vote during the proceedings, did you know that any Academy member present during the September 23-25 event may speak and give testimony during the reference committee hearings? Academy members have the right to be heard and voice their opinions on the issues we address during the reference committees, and our rules actually allow any member to introduce pertinent resolutions (see rule No. 9) to the Congress of Delegates during the opening session.
The Academy has swelled to more than
members in recent years, and we are a diverse bunch. We are Republicans,
Democrats and independents; liberal and conservative; old, young and in between.
We come from different backgrounds, different religions and different
practice types, and we practice medicine in a wide variety of settings that
come with their own unique needs and provide us with our own unique
That diversity makes for some compelling discussions.
Although we have many common passions and interests, there also are issues that
divide us. We will not agree on everything.
But we will hear all the voices of those who want to be heard, and we will have an informed debate during the Congress. I look forward to it.
Delegates also will choose a president-elect,
a new class of officers and
Board members during the Congress. Y ou can check
out all the candidates online.
For those who can't join us in San Diego, you can follow the business sessions of the Congress via streaming video on aafp.org. More details about that will be published in AAFP News Now prior to the start of the Congress.
John Meigs, M.D., is speaker of the Congress of Delegates, the governing body of the AAFP.
A New Assembly Experience: Discussing Real Issues; Providing Real Answers
Are you joining us
for Scientific Assembly this year? If you make it to the Sept. 24-28
event in San Diego, you're going to notice some exciting changes.
Assembly already is
the premier learning event for family physicians, but the Academy is transforming
its signature meeting to make it a more engaging experience that offers members
more than just CME. It will be more interactive with more opportunities to
network with our colleagues and simply more interesting and fun.
Assembly, as always, will continue to offer more than 300 evidence-based CME sessions and workshops. But we also can experience other learning opportunities outside the meeting room. Downstairs at the "Hub" in Hall A, CME credit will be available through more than 60 poster presentations and the AAFP Learning Centers, which will offer interactive, self-paced activities about opioid abuse and men's health.
The Hub also will be
the place to go if we want to learn more after CME sessions. Select CME faculty
will be available for (non-CME) Ask the Expert question-and-answer sessions.
A variety of informational presentations on topics, such as direct primary care and my own presentation on improving payment for family physicians, also will take place in the Hub. Attendees can ask questions after these presentations, as well.
During the lunch hour, tables in the Hub will be designated by scope of practice, type of practice, demographics and more to help us connect with colleagues who have interests and issues similar to our own.
By now, you may have seen -- either on the Academy website or on materials received in the mail -- information regarding Assembly that promises "real issues, real answers, real voices." But what does that mean?
Throughout the Assembly's three general sessions, we'll all be looking at the real issues we face every day. We'll be listening to each other's voices and trying to find solutions. For example, during the first general session, we'll talk about "real issues" based on the top 10 concerns members identified in the Academy's 2013 Member Satisfaction Survey.
Those "real issues" then will be addressed with "real answers" during a panel discussion featuring Samuel Nussbaum, M.D., EVP and chief medical officer for WellPoint; Marci Nielsen, CEO of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative; and John Bender, M.D., senior partner and CEO at Miramont Family Medicine in Fort Collins, Colo. Once again, there will be opportunities for audience participation.
The "real voices" will be ours. Video booths near the CME meeting rooms and outside the Hub will allow all of us to talk about the issues facing our practices, as well as what gives us the most joy about being a family physician. A sample of those videos will be played during the general sessions.
Your opinion matters, so make sure your voice is heard.
Scientific Assembly already is a highly successful meeting, but the AAFP is not going to be complacent. Academy staff and members are working hard to give us the best experience possible. Even more changes and new features are planned for the 2014 Assembly in Washington. More on that later, but for now, I hope to see you in San Diego.
Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., is the board chair of the AAFP.
Delegates to Debate Policy, Select Academy Leaders
More than 200 family physicians representing every state and constituent chapter of the AAFP will gather in Philadelphia next month to discuss issues that affect our specialty, our practices and our patients. These volunteer delegates will work for three days to reach consensus on often hotly debated issues, and resolutions approved by the AAFP Congress of Delegates will become Academy policy.
Who are these delegates, you ask. They are family physicians like us, chosen by their chapters to represent those chapters to the national constituency.
As physicians, we all want to make a difference in some form or fashion. I was an Alabama delegate for more than 10 years before I was elected vice speaker of the Congress in 2008. Although I don't have my own personal agenda or a pet issue to push, I definitely like to know what's going on. The more involved you are in any process, the more you know.
So how do you get involved? Each chapter can send two delegates and two alternate delegates to the Congress. Delegates typically are individuals who have been involved in their chapters as officers or committee members, or who have been recognized as being interested, insightful leaders.
In big chapters, like California or Texas, people interested in participating might find themselves on a waiting list. Smaller chapters, however, sometimes have difficulty attracting enough qualified, available candidates to fill all four of their allotted spots.
Topics to be debated in Philadelphia include revisions to the AAFP bylaws as well as resolutions (Members only) on a wide range of topics, including AAFP dues, clinical and public health issues, CME, electronic health records, and numerous issues related to physician payment.
The Congress also will select a president-elect and a new class of officers and Board members. You can check out all the candidates on the AAFP website.
Members can follow the proceedings -- including the Town Hall meeting and business sessions -- via online streaming video. Keep watching AAFP News Now for more details before the event begins Oct. 14.
John Meigs, M.D., is Speaker of the Congress of Delegates, the governing body of the AAFP.
It was my privilege recently to confer the degree of AAFP Fellow upon 116 family physicians who have distinguished themselves among their colleagues and in their communities through their service to our specialty and their commitment to their own professional development.
I want to encourage all of you who have not already pursued this degree, which is an expression of your commitment to excellence as
a family physician, to do so. If you are unfamiliar with the Fellow program, here is a
little more information.
AAFP Fellows are recognized as champions of family medicine. The Academy established the degree in 1971, and more than 29,000 of you have achieved the honor since then.
The group of Fellows I mentioned above received their certificates at a convocation ceremony during the AAFP Scientific Assembly in Orlando, Fla. For decades, this was the process through which AAFP Fellowship certificates were given, with exceptions for those who received theirs in absentia because of special circumstances.
However, some of you told us that coming to the Academy's annual meeting to receive the Fellow certificate was a barrier. Some of you had a hard time getting away from home because of the demands of your practices or family, and for others, the cost of the trip was a concern because of the difficult economy.
In response, the AAFP has ceased requiring members to attend the annual meeting to receive their Fellow certificates. Instead, many constituent chapters now confer Fellowship, and most of you now can receive your certificate at your chapter's annual meeting.
For those of you who wish to get your certificates via this route, check with your chapter to see if they are conferring Fellows. You should apply for the degree through the Academy at least two months before your chapter meeting.
I hope this change enables more of you to achieve this important goal. Through September, 45 members had received their Fellow certificates at constituent chapter meetings this year.
Any member whose dues and re-election status are in good standing may apply to receive the degree of Fellow after fulfilling the following requirements:
- He or she must have held Active membership for six years, or held a combination of Resident and Active membership for a total of six years;
- He or she must accrue a grand total of 100 points -- as defined by the Fellowship application -- through experiences and activities related to life-long learning, practice quality and improvement, volunteer teaching, public service, publishing and research, and service to the specialty; and
- He or she must submit a one-time fee of $175.
The AAFP is dedicated to promoting excellence in health care. We do this in many ways, but perhaps none is as important as promoting and maintaining high standards among those of us who practice family medicine.
As we juggle our practices, family life and commitments to certain professional organizations, we sometimes get so busy that we forget to show our gratitude to the people who have helped us in these important aspects of our lives.
I reflected on this today after a colleague sent me a link to the University of Texas' alumni publication, which featured an article about Leah Raye Mabry, M.D., R.Ph., of San Antonio.
The article is a fun, first-person account of Leah Raye's experience as the first woman drummer in the Longhorn marching band. Those who know Leah Raye won't be surprised to learn she was a trailblazer.
It's worth clicking on the link just to see the photo of the future Speaker of the Congress of Delegates in her marching band uniform, cheering on the sidelines at a UT game.
At our recent Congress, Leah Raye told the delegates, "When you are called to serve this organization, you've got to do it."
She certainly has backed that up. Leah Raye served six years on the AAFP Board of Directors, three as Vice Speaker and three more as Speaker. The Texan wasn't one to be trifled with when trying to move a meeting along.
"I'm on hormones, and I'm packing," she liked to say.
Leah Raye also served on the Academy's Commission on Health of the Public and Science, the Commission on Finance and Insurance and numerous other task forces and committees.
She served on the board of directors of the Texas AFP, including terms as president, vice president and treasurer. The state chapter awarded her its Presidential Award of Merit earlier this year.
This year's Congress was Leah Raye's last as Speaker. The event also marked the end of terms for Board Chair Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C.; board members Thomas Felger, M.D., of Granger, Ind., and George Shannon, M.D. of Columbus, Ga.; new physician member Russell Kohl, M.D., of Vinita, Okla.; resident member Heidi Meyer, M.D., of San Diego; and student member Kevin Bernstein, M.D., of Pensacola, Fla.
Thanks to all of you for your service. You have made lasting contributions that are greatly appreciated.
Congress of Delegates and Scientific Assembly: A Week to Remember
That was quite a ride.
No, not just the Assembly Celebration, which drew more than 6,000 members and guests to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park Sept. 16. I'm talking about the past week as a whole.
Between the Congress of Delegates and Scientific Assembly, the AAFP packed a lot into one sunny week in beautiful Orlando.
Here are some highlights:
2 -- Number of songs sung by Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan during Opening Ceremony. In between songs, he told his inspiring story of overcoming adversity to accomplish great things.
50 -- The Congress of Delegates considered 50 resolutions. The delegates adopted 18 resolutions or substitute resolutions while 15 items were referred to the Board of Directors. Among the items adopted were resolutions related to CME, corporate relationships, and the scope of practice of naturopaths. Four resolutions regarding the AMA/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee, or RUC, were referred to the Board.
333 -- That's the staggering number of evidence-based CME activities, designed specifically for family physicians, that was offered during Assembly.
441 -- The number of AAFP members who attended the Congress of Delegates. The Academy's policy-making event also drew 83 non-members.
4,165 -- That is the numbers of physicians who attended Assembly. The event drew more than 10,000 people, including students, other health care professionals and exhibitors. Orlando proved to be a popular destination with participants bringing 3,712 guests. More than 6,000 people -- including the small group pictured above -- turned out for the Islands of Adventure event.
$32,420 -- The amount raised during the week by FamMedPAC. The AAFP’s federal political action committee helps elect candidates to the U.S. Congress who support the Academy’s legislative goals. If you have not yet contributed to FamMedPac, please consider doing so.
$38,041-- The amount raised during the week by the AAFP Foundation. Thank you to all who support the philanthropic arm of the Academy, which
promotes humanitarian, educational and scientific initiatives to improve the
health of all people.
This week was a great way to start my year as president. I feel re-energized. This is the 20th time I've been to Assembly, and that's always how I feel headed home. This event is a great opportunity to learn so many things and reconnect with colleagues from around the country.
I hope to see you next year in Philadelphia.
The Future Looks Bright for Family Medicine
I have relatively few regrets in my career, but I do wish I would have been involved with the AAFP when I was a medical student and resident. I knew before I entered medical school that family medicine was my future, but my involvement with the Academy didn't really start until I became active in my state chapter as a young physician.
How refreshing it was to see so many of our future leaders already engaged with the Academy this week.
On Thursday, I had the privilege of speaking to more than 200 chief residents participating in our leadership development program. Chief residents are invited to meet each spring in Kansas City, Mo., before the start of the academic year to learn about leadership and to network. They meet again during Scientific Assembly for additional instruction as well as an opportunity to discuss ideas that are working -- or not -- in their residency programs.
The program is in its 16th year, which means that when I was a chief resident … well, I was a few years early.
Today's medical students and residents have ample opportunities to get involved with the AAFP, including our National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students and Annual Leadership Forum.
I regret the opportunity I passed up years ago, so during Thursday's talk I thanked the chief residents for taking advantage of their opportunities.
Physicians young and old should recognize that our health care systems and organizations are complex and require organizational structure and leadership to be effective. Family physicians, with our broad knowledge and experience, are in a unique position to contribute in those environments. There is no other specialty that understands the full spectrum of health care delivery the way we do, and there is no one who provides such a wide spectrum of care and can relate to so many other health care providers the way we do.
As a young physician, I attended school board meetings and city council meetings to provide input on health issues relevant to the small community where I practiced. Many of our young doctors will find similar opportunities to lead in their communities and organizations, and I encourage you to make the most of these situations. You not only can serve your community, you also can provide a voice for family medicine.
On Friday morning, I attended the presentation for the AAFP/Bristol-Myers Squibb Awards for Excellence in Graduate Medical Education where 10 outstanding residents were recognized for their work. It was encouraging to see the future of our specialty in such good hands.
Congratulations to the award winners (pictured above):
- Elizabeth Bogel, M.D., Seattle;
- Zachary Borus, M.D., M.P.H., Rochester, N.Y.;
- Caleb Bowers, M.D., Wichita, Kan.;
- Michelle Jimerson, M.D., M.P.H., Grand Junction, Colo.;
- Christopher Ledford, M.D., Fort Belvoir, Va.;
- Scott McCracken, M.D., York, Pa.;
- Amy McIntyre, M.D., M.P.H., Boise, Idaho;
- Alison Tucker, M.D., Louisville, Ky.;
- Karli Urban, M.D., Columbia, Mo.; and
- Lisa Young, D.O., M.S.N., Greeley, Colo.
Welcome to the AAFP Leader Voices blog. This new blog is an opportunity for leaders of the Academy to engage with members on a more personal basis.
AAFP members are a varied group and with so many disparate viewpoints, it's no surprise that members sometimes feel as if the Academy's leaders aren't listening to their opinions. I am committed to improving communication with you during my year as president. This new blog is one step in meeting that goal. This online forum will offer family physicians an opportunity to hear and be heard on issues of importance to the specialty.
I'll offer regular updates on what the Academy is doing on members' behalf. In turn, you can offer feedback by posting comments. I look forward to thoughtful discussions.
I also plan to communicate via Twitter and Facebook. This approach will offer immediacy and transparency. Whether I'm lobbying on Capitol Hill, meeting with a state chapter, or attending a medical conference, you will know exactly what I'm doing on your behalf.
Follow me on Twitter @aafpprez.
These are challenging times for our specialty, but the family medicine movement is gaining momentum. As I look forward to the coming year, I see tremendous opportunities because we know family medicine is the answer to the health care challenges we face as a nation.
These new social media channels will allow me to let you know about the Academy's activities while also getting valuable feedback from you about how our actions affect you and your practice.
I'm here for you, and I'm listening. Let the conversation begin.
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