By the time many of you read this, I'll be in Haiti.
Each year, the AAFP Foundation sends a delegation to this Caribbean country as part of its Family Medicine Cares International program. Twenty-two people -- including 17 family physicians -- will make this year's trip, which is scheduled for Feb. 15-22. We will be split into three teams:
- a patient care team will work at community clinics;
- a service team will provide needed repairs and painting at local schools and provide school supplies and much-needed personal items for the children; and
- a medical education team will present two symposia, including 16 presentations to family physicians, residents, medical students and others. We also will provide faculty development at the country's two family medicine residency programs with the overarching goal of improving health by supporting the development of family medicine in Haiti.
The patient care team will see patients who otherwise might have a long wait to see a physician. Haiti, with a population of 9.7 million people, has less than 50 residency-trained family physicians. During last year's trip, our clinical team provided care to more than 600 patients. This included performing physical exams and providing a year's worth of vitamins to 100 orphans. We will be bringing medical equipment, medications and more with us again this year.
New this year, the Foundation is providing a scholarship for a resident to make the trip. Zita Magloire, M.D., from Wichita, Kan., will be traveling with the medical education team and will give a presentation about her experience to her peers later this year at the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students.
More on that event later.
Helping people appeals to the philanthropic heart of family physicians, and few nations need help more than Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The country continues to recover from the devastating earthquake of January 2010. This will be my fourth visit, and with every visit, I can see progress as Haitians rebuild their country. The participants in our first delegation trip in February 2013, agree that this is a life-changing experience.
Although our delegation makes the trip only once a year, family physicians can work with the AAFP Foundation(www.aafpfoundation.org) to contribute at community clinics in Haiti by volunteering for one week or more to provide patient care at any time during the year.
Family Medicine Cares International is just one of the numerous programs the AAFP Foundation supports throughout the year. These efforts -- which increase the visibility and impact of family medicine -- are possible because of support from AAFP members. The work we do is only limited by the amount of support we receive.
How can you help? One way is to simply go to the Foundation's website and see what programs appeal to you(www.aafpfoundation.org). Members can make donations to a specific program, such as Family Medicine Cares International, or make an unrestricted donation to the Annual Fund.
So where does the money go?
Did you know the Foundation supports research that is specific to family medicine? In the past 18 months, the Foundation has awarded more than $300,000 in grants.
The Foundation also supports programs at the chapter level. In fact, 40 percent of the funds members contribute through the dues check-off process are allocated to chapter programs.
In addition to Family Medicine Cares International, the Foundation supports Family Medicine Cares USA(www.aafpfoundation.org). This humanitarian program has helped open seven free clinics in the United States during the past three years. This year, the program will provide grants to existing clinics for the first time, as well as helping more new clinics. Funds are used for durable items, such as electronic health records, exam tables and other equipment.
The Foundation also provides more than $350,000 each year to student and resident initiatives, including $90,000 in 2014 for family medicine interest groups.
That brings us back to National Conference. Last year, the Foundation provided scholarships for 200 residents and medical students to attend the annual event in Kansas City, Mo., and we plan to match that number this year. That's an increase from 125 scholarships just two years ago.
National Conference provides leadership and networking opportunities for both students and residents and also provides students with clinical and procedural skills courses. Students also have opportunities to meet with representatives from family medicine residency programs.
Forty AAFP members donated $600 to fund full scholarships last year, and a few family physicians funded more than one scholarship. That's significant because our surveys have shown that attendance at National Conference increases the likelihood that students will choose family medicine as their specialty.
At a time when the United States is facing its own shortage of family physicians, your contributions can make a big difference in ensuring a healthy supply of outstanding, future family physicians.
I hope you will consider joining me in supporting the important work of our AAFP Foundation.
Jane Weida, M.D., is President of the AAFP Foundation.