Countdown to Zero
I enjoy countdown calendars, and it's easy to set one up. After all, there's an app for that.
For me, it usually is a countdown to a vacation trip or some other special event. I used a countdown to the 2010 AAFP Congress of Delegates election where I was fortunate to be chosen the Academy's President-elect.
On the day I was installed as AAFP President last year, I started a countdown to the end of my term. Due to the timing of our annual meetings, I looked forward to 13 months as president -- 399 days. When I spoke of the countdown, however, some misunderstood and thought I was looking forward to being done.
I don't use countdowns to track the time remaining in something I want to put behind me. My intent was to be reminded of the time I had left to make an impact, to advance the goals of family physicians and the AAFP and to enjoy the experience. Looking forward, 399 days seemed like a long time. Now looking back, the countdown to zero went quickly. As the days counted down, my respect and appreciation for the AAFP and its members grew significantly.
As AAFP President, I've had the opportunity to work even more directly with members of our AAFP staff, represent our Academy in the public and private sectors, be our public media voice, and interact with our members and chapters across the country. The president gets a lot of the recognition and credit, but it is often others who do the heavy lifting.
I've had the privilege to be invited to chapter meetings to speak on advocacy, provide an update on AAFP activities, and install new chapter leaders. I always put my best efforts into these meetings, but no matter how hard I worked, I always got more from these meetings than I could contribute. I'm continually impressed and educated by the energy, innovation and dedication of my fellow family physicians.
Private sector advocacy is critical to our members, and this year, I had the opportunity to meet with leaders from the major national health plans. Discussions centered on better payment for family physicians, reducing administrative burden and supporting the PCMH with necessary payment reform. These meetings were very productive because of the ongoing relationships built by AAFP staff and the tremendous knowledge base of our staff.
Governmental advocacy is a high priority for our Academy, representing our interests in both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. This past year, I've had the opportunity to meet with leaders in the House and Senate, and executive branch leaders in HHS, CMS, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), and the White House. The highlight was the opportunity to testify in July for the Senate Finance Committee regarding physician payment reform. Without the hard work and skill of our government relations staff, these meetings would have not been successful or, in some cases, even possible.
The AAFP President is the public and media voice for our Academy. I've given more media interviews than I can count and been quoted in numerous trade and mainstream media sources. Press conferences at the National Press Club regarding Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and Choosing Wisely were an opportunity to have a family medicine voice in these important initiatives. The highlight was being on the "PBS News Hour" discussing the Choosing Wisely campaign. Again, I could not have done these things without media training and other resources provided by our expert public relations staff.
A particular focus for me has been improved member communication, particularly utilizing social media, including this blog. I've strived to let you know what I've been doing on your behalf through the blog, Twitter, and Facebook. My thanks to all of you who have followed and provided your valuable input. This is yet another effort that would not have been successful without our dedicated staff.
As I count down the last few days to zero in my term, I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve as AAFP President. In my President-elect campaign speech I said, "for family medicine and our Academy, the future is so bright … I gotta wear shades." Now, more than ever, I'm convinced that is true.
Glen Stream, M.D.,
M.B.I., is President of the AAFP.