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Tuesday Jun 27, 2017

Reflecting on 70 Years of Leadership and Innovation

"Primary care is our best hope for the future. Family doctors are our rising stars for the future."
-- Margaret Chan, M.D., M.Sc., Director-General of the World Health Organization

When general practitioners returned to their civilian practices in the United States after World War II, many found themselves under attack at home. U.S. hospitals were beginning to categorize physicians based on so-called specialist qualifications, meaning GPs lost privileges to perform procedures they had done before -- and during -- the war.

GPs needed a national professional association that could protect their rights, and the American Academy of General Practice -- now the AAFP -- was established in June 1947. As we mark our 70th anniversary, it's important to take note of how far we've come and what lies ahead.


Center for the History of Family Medicine
On Oct. 3, 1971, the American Academy of General Practice (AAGP) officially became the American Academy of Family Physicians. In this 1971 photo, James Price, M.D., left, then speaker of the Congress of Delegates, and James Grobe, M.D., then president-elect, exchange the old AAGP seal for the new AAFP seal.

To promote and protect general practice, the AAGP set high standards for its members and, thus, became the first physician professional association to tie membership to CME.

And not only has the Academy been an innovative leader in providing CME since its inception, it is the oldest (and one of just three) national CME accreditor.

The AAFP produces more than 100 CME activities each year, including the Family Medicine Experience, numerous other live events, and journal and online CME sessions that are designed for family physicians with input from members. The Academy also reviews more than 3,000 activities from roughly 1,300 organizations for accreditation each year to ensure they meet the needs of family physicians.

In fact, the AAFP has recently embarked on an initiative to modernize its credit system to better serve members. The intent is to maintain its relevance by harmonizing requirements with other professional expectations -- such as re-licensure, maintenance of certification and payers' quality improvement requirements -- to engage in lifelong learning and show practice performance. We believe the new system will be simpler, faster and more focused on helping you provide your patients excellent care.

When family medicine was officially recognized in 1969, it was the 20th physician specialty, yet it was the first to require physicians to pass a certification test every seven years to maintain their status as diplomates of their specialty's examining board.

Of course, the Academy's role in guiding our specialty is far broader than creating, or even accrediting, CME. We continue to work tirelessly on issues ranging from public health to education and workforce to advocacy and payment.

For example, the AAFP adopted policy in 1989 regarding the concept of health care for all, and this ideal continues to guide our efforts in the current political environment, which sees health care coverage at risk for millions of patients.

The AAFP also continues to seek new solutions to the challenges we face in our clinics and communities. And modernizing our credit system is just one of several innovations underway. Earlier this year, for example, the Academy launched the Center for Diversity and Health Equity, which will address the social aspects of health care.

Neither of these ideals -- protecting patients' health care access and addressing health equity -- should come as a surprise. The Academy has a history of fighting for the little guy, dating back 70 years when it was formed to be a voice for physicians who felt marginalized in a changing health care system.

John Meigs, M.D., is president of the AAFP.

Posted at 02:52PM Jun 27, 2017 by John Meigs, M.D.

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