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Thursday Nov 22, 2012

Thankful for Family and Family Medicine

Holiday greetings from Indianapolis. This year, I was fortunate enough to get away for a few days to spend time with my brother, Mark; sister-in-law, Charla; and their kids in their home. On this Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the chance to play a little football and catch up with my nieces and nephews, reconnecting with relatives who live more than 1,000 miles and two time zones away. (Plus, Charla's table would make Martha Stewart jealous.)

I hope you also are able to be with those you care about and who care about you. Today, my sense of family includes all of the Cains around the table and around the world. It also reaches out to my extended family of family medicine. In many ways, my family isn't just defined by those who share similar DNA; it extends to all those I care about, including my clinic staff, patients and Academy family.

I've been practicing full-scope family medicine at AF Williams Family Medicine Center in Denver for more than a decade. Although my patients often thank me for helping them, I am grateful for the gift they give me: the privilege to be part of their lives.

I'm also thankful for another kind of family back home in Colorado -- my students and residents. Just as it is rewarding to watch my nieces and nephews grow into wonderful young men and women, it's incredibly satisfying to watch bright, talented medical students grow to become bright, talented residents and for those residents to mature into bright, talented young doctors. Thanks to all of my fellow educators around the country who are helping train the next generation of family physicians.

We also can get a sense of family when we spend time with a group of people who share our values. I got that feeling last month in Philadelphia at the AAFP Scientific Assembly. It was a bit overwhelming to see more than 4,000 family physicians gathered there for the same reason -- for healthier patients and practices.

We don't always agree on everything, but our Academy continues to grow as we work together to advance our vision of achieving optimal health for everyone. Our membership is nearing 106,000, up from 100,300 a year ago. As that number grows, our voice and our influence grow with it. More and more, people are recognizing the value of family medicine. Congress, federal agencies and others routinely seek our input on important issues, including payment and physician workforce issues.

Despite the many challenges facing family medicine, student interest in our specialty continues to grow. Our student membership increased to 20,600 this year, up from 17,100 a year ago. Thanks to the Family Medicine Interest Groups for getting the word out on campuses around the country. The number of FMIGs has increased by more than a dozen in the past few years with more than 140 groups active at our nation's medical schools. Those students are off to a good start because helping people is what being a family physician is about.

Have a great holiday, and thanks for all you do for the health of our patients, families and communities every day.

Tell us what you are thankful for, and help promote the specialty of family medicine by participating in this month's social media campaign.

Jeff Cain, M.D., is President of the AAFP.

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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.