About the American Academy of Family Physicians

Our History

The History of the AAFP

The American Academy of Family Physicians is the national association of family doctors. It is one of the largest national medical organizations, with more than 110,600 members in 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam, as well as internationally. 



Until October 3, 1971, it was known as the American Academy of General Practice. The name was changed in order to reflect more accurately the changing nature of primary health care.



The AAFP was founded in 1947 to promote and maintain high quality standards for family doctors who are providing continuing comprehensive health care to the public.

Other major purposes of the AAFP include:

  • To provide responsible advocacy for and education of patients and the public in all health-related matters
  • To preserve and promote quality cost-effective health care
  • To promote the science and art of family medicine and to ensure an optimal supply of well-trained family physicians
  • To promote and maintain high standards among physicians who practice family medicine
  • To preserve the right of family physicians to engage in medical and surgical procedures for which they are qualified by training and experience
  • To provide advocacy, representation, and leadership for the specialty of family medicine
  • To maintain and provide an organization with high standards to fulfill the above purposes and to represent the needs of its members

The AAFP was instrumental in the establishment of family medicine, a derivative of classical general practice, as medicine's 20th primary specialty. The AMA's Council on Medical Education and the independent American Board of Medical Specialties granted approval to a certifying board in Family Medicine, the basic structural requisite of a medical specialty, on February 8, 1969. Examinations have been given annually since 1970, and recertification examinations annually since 1976.

Realizing that the family doctor's effectiveness depends on sound, up-to-date continuing education, the founders wrote into the Bylaws the requirement that members in the Active membership category must complete a minimum of 150 hours of approved continuing education every three years to retain membership. This requirement may be met through continuing education programs, publication or presentation of original scientific papers, medical school or postgraduate teaching, residency training, etc.

Accurate and current records are kept to ensure that individual requirements are met; if they are not, the member is dropped from the rolls. The requirement, unique at its time of origin, has, through the years, become a standard for an increasing number of other medical groups.



The AAFP is governed by a Congress of Delegates composed of two delegates from each of the 55 constituent chapters, as well as from resident and student groups, new physicians, and special constituencies (women, minorities, international medical graduates, and GLBTs).

The Congress meets annually, immediately prior to the AAFP Scientific Assembly, and has sole power to establish policies and define principles. These policies and programs are carried out between annual meetings by the Board of Directors and a number of standing and special commissions and committees. Delegates to the Congress of Delegates elect the Board, which in turn appoints commission and committee members. Constituent chapters are similarly organized.



The AAFP Scientific Assembly is the AAFP's largest meeting for continuing education, drawing more than 10,000 physicians and visitors.



The AAFP maintains a national headquarters in Leawood, Kansas. It publishes a clinical journal for physicians in primary care entitled American Family Physician, with a circulation of 156,000; AAFP News Now, an all-member news and features publication available online, via email, and as a weekly audio news summary; and Family Practice Management, a publication on practice management and socioeconomic issues.

The AAFP: Who We Are

AAFP Brand Promise

We are family physicians: the foundation of health care in America. We provide continuing and comprehensive medical care to patients regardless of gender, age, or issue. We are passionate, highly skilled professionals dedicated to serving our patients, their families, and the communities in which we live.

Standing together– more than 100,000 strong– we are the American Academy of Family Physicians. We are a membership organization in the purest sense: an association of family physicians led by family physicians. With our colleagues throughout the country, we work to solidify family medicine as the cornerstone of a functioning health care system. We lobby government, negotiate with payers, partner with employers, educate patients, and champion family medicine on the national stage.

Together, we ensure that every family physician is represented, respected, and rewarded.

Who Our Members Are

Members of the AAFP

The American Academy of Family Physicians represents 110,600 physicians and medical students nationwide.

  • Approximately one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 240 million office visits each year– nearly 87 million more than the next largest medical specialty.
  • Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal, patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.
  • AAFP members include practicing physicians, resident members, student members, international members, and life members.
  • Eighty-seven percent of active AAFP members are engaged in direct patient care at least 50% of the time.
  • In 2011, active AAFP members averaged 34 hours a week in direct patient contact while averaging 51 work hours per workweek.
  • Within the AAFP's active membership, 39% are female and 18% are graduates of medical schools outside of the United States. Rural family physicians account for 19% of active AAFP members.
  • Eighty-five percent of active AAFP members practice primarily in an office setting. The remaining active members practice in hospital settings, urgent care facilities, institutional residential facilities, and other practice settings.

The AAFP exists to support family physicians so you can spend more time doing what you do best: providing quality, cost-effective patient care.

AAFP resources allow members to save time with billing, coding, payment, and practice enhancement resources that help increase efficiency. They save money through discounts on the AAFP’s evidence-based, family-medicine-specific CME. AAFP Connection, the AAFP’s members-only online community, allows the exchange of ideas and information between family physicians throughout the United States. AAFP membership also ensures that family medicine is actively represented at the local, state, and national level.