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FMX: Breaking Boundaries, Challenging Perceptions

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FMX is always such a whirlwind for me. I never quite get to see and hear everything that wanted to because there is so much going on. When I finally had a moment to reflect on what presentations really broke boundaries for me, a few key presentations came to mind mostly because they met me where I am today as a Black woman practicing medicine during a pandemic overlaid on systematic racism.

First, a reminder that I really needed to hear came from Corey Lynn Martin, MD in his presentation “The Science of Gratitude.” In his presentation, he spent time speaking on the value of not just being grateful but actually making time to express that gratitude. In teaching about the idea that I would have called your “ride or die crew” he names your “4 a.m. friends.” This circle of special people are the ones who you feel safe enough to call no matter what time of day if you need help and they will pick up the phone. What he said that gave me pause was that while your list of who you would call is a few folks, your list of who you would pick up the phone for is much longer. But then he asked us if we ever told the folks who we would pick up the phone for that we would do that for them? I clutched my pearls because it never occurred to me that they may not know. The beautiful (and sometimes funny) conversations that I had after telling folks they could call me at 4 a.m. were worth the price of FMX and then some. And for that, I thank Dr. Martin!

I’ve had the opportunity to hear Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, PhD, MPH speak a few times before and every time I walk away with a new revelation about myself and the world around me. Her FMX main stage “Confronting Racism Denial: Naming Racism and Moving to Action” was fantastic not only for the information that she delivered with her usual grace and passion but also for the "microaggression in action" that was the attendee group chat. For some attendees, the insensitive and at time inaccurate comments in the chat were startling, but for some of us this was a typical experience when trying to share how racism in medicine does in fact exist and impact our daily lives. The fact that her story struck a nerve and sparked the need to literally use the skills she was teaching about in real time during the presentation reaffirmed that the AAFP is pushing us to break boundaries and explore a critical issue underlying all that we do. Her restaurant allegory hits me differently each time I hear it. This time I was humbled to be reminded that while I may tend to focus on the restaurants where I am staring at a closed sign, I still have plenty of opportunities to make space for others in the restaurants where I was granted entry. All of us have work to do to make inclusion a reality.

That mindset set me up to hear “Incivility in Health Care: Strategies to De-escalate Troubling Encounters” presented by Amaryllis Sanchez-Wholever, MD and “Anti-Racism in Medicine” presented by Russyan Mark Mabeza with fresh ears. Both presentations gave concrete, real-world examples of how we can make changes. From giving content to teach one another how to be an ally and actively implement anti-racist policies to having office procedures in place so you know how to access support if you find yourself in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation. Both were practical, to the point and right on time. 

In the end I find myself really grateful for all the hard work that went into creating the meeting both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. These speakers shared a part of their lives with me, taught me something new and in the end made our world a better place. Now that is an annual meeting to be grateful for! See you next year in Washington, DC.

Dr. Savoy reports no conflicts of interest.

Illustration by April Brust

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