Dedicated Medical Students Drawing Peers to Family Medicine
Each year, seven student leaders chosen from our network of Family Medicine Interest Groups (FMIGs) come to the AAFP's offices in Leawood, Kan., for orientation before beginning their new roles.
When our five FMIG regional coordinators, national FMIG coordinator and Student National Medical Association liaison to the AAFP met with Academy leaders and staff in January 2012, AAFP EVP Doug Henley, M.D., challenged them to boost student membership to 20,000. They delivered, helping boost our student membership by 3,500.
Dr. Henley raised the bar to 21,000 when seven new student leaders recently met in Leawood. The task of increasing student membership will become more difficult because a growing percentage of students already are members. To date, 20 percent of medical students have joined our ranks.
So how do the FMIGs grow student interest in family medicine? Each regional coordinator is responsible for keeping in touch with the more than two dozen medical schools in his or her region, as well as with FMIG student leaders on those campuses. They find out what those groups need help with and make sure they are aware of various opportunities, such as funding sources, scholarships and AAFP programs.
It's no coincidence that student attendance at the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students increased by 10 percent in 2012.
The work of the student leaders broadens the AAFP's scope and complements the work of staff members in the Academy's Medical Education Division, who work with FMIG faculty advisers on those same campuses.
A recent survey of those faculty advisers showed that interest in family medicine is increasing among students in 41 percent of FMIGs and is steady in 44 percent. Less than 4 percent reported declining interest.
There are at least 147 FMIGs at our nation's allopathic medical schools, up from 113 just five years ago. Also encouraging is that 10 of the AAFP's 11 target schools (those without a department of family medicine or those that have had a department of family medicine for less than three years) now have an FMIG.
I personally work with our local FMIG every year in Colorado by teaching students how to present Tar Wars, the AAFP's tobacco-free education program for fourth- and fifth-graders. Tar Wars is popular with med students and strengthens their interest in community health and family medicine.
I was able to meet with our national FMIG leaders, via Skype during their recent meeting n Leawood, and I was impressed by their energy, enthusiasm and commitment. They are (left to right in the photo above) Simon Tesfamariam, of Duke University School of Medicine, Student National Medical Association Liaison to the AAFP; Kristina Zimmerman, of The Commonwealth Medical College, FMIG Network Region 3 Coordinator; Catherine Louw, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, FMIG Network Region 1 Coordinator; Kenetra Hix, of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, FMIG Network Region 5 Coordinator; Lauren Kendall, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, FMIG Network National Coordinator; Mustafa Alavi, also of the University of Illinois at Chicago, FMIG Network Region 2 Coordinator; and Mark Prats, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, FMIG Network Region 4 Coordinator.
FMIGs are on the front line of our family medicine revolution. Good luck to you all.
Jeff Cain, M.D., is president of the AAFP.