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Wednesday Mar 07, 2012

'Inspirational' Forum Grooms FP Leaders, Helps Chapters

Who will lead the next generation of family physicians? Who will be a force for change in your state chapter? Could it be you?

Many Academy leaders start their journey in the AAFP with the wonderful skill-building opportunities provided at the the National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC), the AAFP’s forum to address member issues specific to women, minorities, new physicians, international medical graduates, and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender physicians.

But less recognized are the skill-building benefits of the AAFP's Annual Leadership Forum (ALF), where chapter leaders and newly elected Board members learn from their peers what a state chapter can accomplish. 

In 1986, J.J. Smith, M.D., a family physician colleague from Anchorage, Alaska, pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to be on our state chapter's CME committee. Fresh out of residency training and in my first job at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, I was honored and surprised. Attending my first State Officers Conference, as ALF was called then, was an eye opener. I met impassioned family docs from all over the country, working at the state and local level to promote the tenets of family medicine: legislative advocacy, promotion of healthy lifestyles, participation in clinical medical education, and sharing tips and tricks on practice enhancement.  

Over the years, I found this annual meeting to be incredibly inspirational and rewarding. Each year I returned to my state with a new vigor and outlook on my practice. New attendees from our chapter became our new chapter leaders, and the baton was passed to freshly minted chapter leaders who were infused with the spirit and joys of family medicine practice and excited about the opportunity to make a difference.

I learned tips and tricks for organizing my work habits, and rediscovered how to achieve a better work/life balance. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to talk with inspiring colleagues who had taken on some of the challenges I was facing and found success.

The ALF/NCSC conference is a unique opportunity to blend networking with leadership skill-building, and it offers the opportunity to get back in touch with the core values that made me choose family medicine in the first place.My return to my practice and chapter always benefited from a renewed enthusiasm after attending the ALF/NCSC gathering. My fellow chapter colleagues in attendance developed a shared vision of where to take our chapter in the upcoming year, and we identified resources through conference networking that we shared with our chapter executive and staff that made success in our projects more likely.

As a small AAFP chapter with geographic challenges and limited resources, Alaska has benefited greatly from the opportunity to attend this terrific annual leadership event. The financial support for new attendees has been invaluable. I, for one, would not have continued to meet with my regional and national colleagues year after year if it were not for ALF and the NCSC.

I am appreciative that the AAFP has consistently supported and funded this very worthwhile conference for leadership development, and hope that those of you who are considering becoming more involved in community leadership and AAFP chapter activities choose to attend. You will not be disappointed.

This year's events are scheduled for May 2-4 in Kansas City, Mo. I'll see you there.

Barbara Doty, M.D., of Wasilla, Alaska, is a second-year member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

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