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Wednesday Sep 06, 2017

Family Physicians Can Make Their Mark in Many Ways

During my six years on the AAFP Board of Directors, I have traveled all over the country to state chapter meetings and other family medicine events and met thousands of family physicians. These extraordinary individuals do incredible work in diverse locations and practice settings. One of the common traits we all share, however, is the sincere desire to serve our communities. It is amazing how many ways we do that. As I transition out of this role, please know that my advocacy and passion for the work of my colleagues will not evaporate.

As I end my time on the AAFP Board of Directors, I look forward to finding a challenge that stirs my passions and allows me to be of service.

As an AAFP officer, I've had numerous opportunities to talk with medical students and tell the stories of family medicine. Family physicians are like pluripotent stem cells because we can adapt to any kind of practice setting. Our broad training allows us to not only treat both genders and all age groups in a traditional family medicine practice but also provide hospice and palliative care, as well as work in emergency medicine and urgent care, hospitalist roles, sports medicine, public health, global health, research, education and so much more. Whether running a federal agency or a solo practice, the heart of family medicine is our commitment to patients and health improvement.

The pluripotent nature of family medicine has certainly been evident in my own career. I've been an associate director of a residency program, a television health reporter, a state official, a health consultant and a clinician in a federally qualified health center. I have cared for patients all along the way, and it remains such a privilege.

My first job, however, was working for my dad when I was a teenager. He was a Korean War veteran and had a pluripotent business career of his own. My dad passed away a few weeks ago after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He will be greatly missed, and my family is feeling this transition, as well. We recently interred Dad at the local cemetery he once owned. The day was filled with stories, laughter, tears and the support of good friends.

It was my dad who told me early on to make my mark on the world and try to make it better. Both my parents were involved in service and leadership in our community, and they emphasized the concept of giving back. I've tried my best to follow their example through work with the AAFP, the Pennsylvania AFP, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Cancer Society and other groups.

As my time on the Board winds down, interesting and diverse opportunities have arisen. Again, our broad training and ability to adapt to different situations is apparent. Like my amazing family medicine colleagues, I will need to find a challenge that stirs my passions and allows me to be of service. I'm considering an option that would allow me to use both my M.D. and my M.B.A. to help address a population whose health care needs are not being met. It's an intriguing idea and one, I think, that would make my dad proud.

There are many challenges remaining but also many opportunities for family physicians today. The AAFP Board members practice in the same environments as our colleagues and face the same apprehensions about what the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act will bring, clunky electronic health records, the American Board of Family Medicine's Family Medicine Certification process, ridiculous prior authorization hassles, worries about workforce, and all the other concerns. But they are a bold group, and I am extremely proud of the tough stances they have taken this year on these many fronts. The AAFP has tremendous staff, and I want to thank them for everything that they do for me and my fellow family physicians.

I have been honored to serve a profession that I cherish. Collectively, we provide care through 192 million office visits a year, and the leadership, compassion and service above and beyond that care cannot be calculated. Each of us is working to leave the world a better place, just as my dad suggested so long ago.

Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., is Board chair of the AAFP. Her term ends Sept. 13 during the Congress of Delegates.

Posted at 12:00PM Sep 06, 2017 by Wanda Filer, M.D.

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