Finding My 'Why' at AAFP

This year’s American Academy of Family Physicians Family Medicine Experience (AAFP FMX) conference was a whirlwind of networking, knowledge building, fundraising, and socializing. Set in Philadelphia, the birthplace of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, attendees were able to visit all of the iconic landmarks that made our country what it is today. It's home to the Liberty Bell, the new Museum of the American Revolution, and the Franklin Institute, just to name a few. Participants enjoyed a wonderful evening of entertainment at Xfinity Live venue with the band Emerald City where I have never seen so many people, young and old, of every race, color, and creed dancing and singing along to an electrifying band.

Speaking of every race, color and creed, the AAFP membership is incredibly diverse. Here is a template of good will for our nation as we as family physicians emulate our communities. We have made great strides in our organization over the years to attract physicians from every background, color, and faith to this membership. It was an especially historic moment to see Dr. Ada Stewart being elected the first black woman president-elect of the AAFP at the Congress of Delegates (COD), which takes place immediately before the conference. If you haven’t had a chance to see our Academy do its work, come to the COD and learn how it is done. Or better yet, get involved at your state level, and become a delegate or alternate delegate and vote on important resolutions that establish what the Academy stands for.

This year, for the first time, the AAFP COD passed a bold resolution to support family physicians who serve patients in need of pregnancy termination with safe, competent care that our members working in reproductive health can provide. Resolutions around other important issues of the day were debated and discussed, and some sent to the Board of Directors for further study. Read more on the resolutions passed.

I spoke to many participants who were happily telling each other how good they felt at the conference. “It’s so great to be around a huge group of like-minded people in the same room.” “I feel so isolated in my individual practice. Coming here helps me reconnect with my purpose as a family physician. I am among friends.” and “We all have so much in common!”

The AAFP foundation was busily collecting donations to continue to build family medicine for the future, and the AAFP PAC was working hard to keep our donations over the one million dollar per year mark so that we can continue to keep our AAFP leaders present at the table in Washington. As they say, “If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the table.”

And the seminars and lectures and workshops! Where do I begin? Hour after hour of incredibly relevant information that was selected to be pertinent to my practice today. Everything from evaluating contracts, to learning the newest guidelines and the newest medicines, to the newest thoughts on caring for patients with COPD, asthma, ADHD, migraine, diabetes, STIs, hypertension — you name it. And the handy AAFP app made it super easy to find your next lecture, evaluate it online, and submit for CME credit, all on your cell phone! And you could sign up for extra “on-Demand” CME to be completed after the conference to give you even more hours of CME, up to 100 hours total.

I found two sessions to be particularly helpful for me: one on advanced migraine management involving detailed instructions on how to give local anesthetic injections for headaches, and another that helped me reanalyze how I discuss sleep with my patients who suffer from insomnia, and rethink the which medications I use in which situations. What I love about the AAFP lectures is that are ACCME compliant and don’t have pharma bias in the talks. Instead, they present balanced arguments around non-medication-based treatments as well as discuss appropriate cost-effective medications.

The Keynote Speaker this year was Michael Eisner, former CEO of Walt Disney. He spoke about his career in the context of finding his “why.” The theme of the conference this year was “Love Your Why.” I had to tear up a little when he admitted that over the course of his career, he was constantly finding the next “what” to do, and until reflecting upon this topic at this conference, had never really found his “why” until now. From all of family medicine, we say: You’re welcome, Michael!

It seemed like everyone at the conference certainly knew their “why,” and enjoyed coming together to talk about it. I don’t want to term it a “love fest” for family medicine, but I certainly felt all warm and fuzzy the whole week, after attending both the COD and FMX. Dr. Doug Henley, in his final pre-retirement address to us as CEO of the AAFP, told us how people he encountered all over Philadelphia said how much they enjoyed having all these family docs come to their town. “They’re all so friendly and courteous!” “Of course they are,” he said, “They’re family docs! The Best. Specialty. Ever.”

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