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Monday Oct 02, 2017

AAFP's NCCL Set Me on Leadership Path

It is tradition in the residency program I graduated from, and where I now work as faculty, to allow graduating residents to have a moment of reflection and share their "lessons learned" during a special presentation. This is an opportunity for the departing residents to look back on their past three years and talk about their new journey with their fellow residents, medical students, attendings and nursing staff.

[Frankie Simmons, M.D., at Congress of Delegates]

I served as a delegate at the 2017 AAFP Congress of Delegates in San Antonio.

As I begin the great honor of serving as the new physician member of the AAFP Board of Directors, I want to take a moment to reflect on the journey that prepared me for this new opportunity and share my lessons learned with a broader audience.

I began my journey to this particular role while I was in residency. My clinic medical director, Rhett Brown, M.D., and I had spoken about my interest in advocacy, and he invited me to the North Carolina AFP Advocacy Day in Raleigh. At that time, the health care system was beginning to organize accountable care organizations, and as a state chapter we were discussing how that would affect our state. I remember how inspired and motivated I felt after visiting the North Carolina General Assembly and sharing my story with our state representatives. I realized that family physicians could influence and shape how health care is provided to our patients on a state level. This experience left me with the desire to learn more about the advocacy work in North Carolina, and I began attending more state chapter meetings.

After finishing residency, I was asked to be my state's LGBT delegate for the AAFP National Conference of Constituency Leaders (NCCL), which at the time was called the National Conference of Special Constituencies. This conference gives AAFP members from underrepresented constituencies (minorities; women; international medical graduates; new physicians; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender physicians and those who support LGBT issues) an opportunity to develop leadership skills and to influence AAFP policy.

I must admit I was a bit shy as a first-time attendee and wasn't exactly sure what to expect. However, I was quickly put at ease. I met so many wonderful physicians who encouraged me and supported my efforts to write my first resolution. Working with my LGBT caucus, I co-authored an anti-bullying resolution, which was adopted.

In addition to policy development, NCCL also offers educational workshops. I still remember the first lecture I attended at my first NCCL. Mike Sevilla, M.D.(drmikesevilla.com), gave a presentation regarding social media and how physicians can use it to deliver health and advocacy messages to a broad audience beyond the exam room.

I attended NCCL for three years before running for a leadership role. I was encouraged by Renee Crichlow, M.D., and Jonathan Wells, M.D., to run for co-convener of the LGBT constituency. I served as co-convener for the LGBT constituency and as a delegate to the Congress of Delegates in 2016 and 2017.

What I learned was the importance of getting involved. NCCL is an excellent training ground, which has allowed me to give voice to my patients and to my colleagues. Since attending that first NCCL, I have become more aware of the issues facing my colleagues and patients nationwide. I have served as a North Carolina AFP board member for four years and engaged my city and state representatives on a wide range of health-related issues affecting the community.

I have enjoyed sharing ideas and experiences with physicians from across the country, which has allowed me the opportunity to collaborate on various projects. Most importantly, I learned the importance of mentorship. I would not have gotten this far without having several mentors who have encouraged and supported me on this journey. It is vital to have someone -- or several individuals -- guiding you along the way. It is not only important to have mentors but to also be a mentor to those coming behind me.

The 2018 NCCL will be April 26-28 in Kansas City, Mo. Physicians interested in serving as a constituency delegate should contact their chapters. The event coincides with the Annual Chapter Leader Forum, httpwhich is the Academy's leadership development program for chapter-elected leaders, aspiring leaders and chapter staff.

I am far from the end of my journey as a physician leader, but it is always important to reflect on steps taken along the way. There have been many lessons learned, and I know I have many more to learn. I look forward to representing the new physicians, as well as the member constituencies, to the Board of Directors this year.

Benjamin "Frankie" Simmons III, M.D., is the new physician member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 05:23PM Oct 02, 2017 by Benjamin "Frankie" Simmons III, M.D.

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