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Vermont AFP Tackles Big Tasks With Committed Chapter Core
Chapter Focuses on Keeping Kids Healthy
By Sheri Porter
"There are not a lot of people to do the work," Penney told AAFP News Now. "We have a 12-person board of directors and limited financial resources."
In addition, he said, most of the chapter's board members reside in Chittenden County, which holds about one-quarter of the state's entire population. "We're trying to get more representation from the rest of the state," said Penney. "Burlington (the state's largest city, with a population of about 42,600) is up in the northwest corner in Chittenden County, and that tends to be where a lot of the medical activities are centered."
- The Vermont AFP is a small chapter in a largely rural state.
- Chapter leadership works hard to ensure that the board's makeup represents the state's geographic diversity.
- The Vermont AFP demonstrates strong support for issues that concern the health and well-being of children and adolescents.
Vermont is best described as a long, narrow state with a total land area of just 9,216 square miles, or about .0026 percent of the total land area that comprises the United States. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates, about 626,430 people call Vermont home.
The state also is home to eight federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) that treat, through an additional 40-some satellite sites, upwards of 120,000 people, or one in every five residents.
Chapter Serves as Resource For Rural FPs
According to Lichtenstein, his community health center was the first in the state and is considered the most rural. "It's easy to go months without seeing another doctor other than your partners," said Lichtenstein, who paused and then added, "I could say years."
Vermont AFP Wins AAFP Membership Awards
According to Vermont AFP Executive Director Stephanie Winters, the chapter won first place among small chapters for retention of active members and came in second among small chapters for the highest percentage increase in active members.
Winters said an immunization bill generated a lot of chapter communication with members, as did health care reform efforts at the state level.
"There are a lot of health care issues going on the state, and when members see that their specialty has a voice, they see the value of belonging to their AAFP chapter," said Winters.
"Our needs are very different from those of the 'city people,' and so we try to make sure that when someone rural leaves the board we find someone else in the same category to fill that spot," said Lichtenstein.
Advocacy Leads FP to New Experiences
As part of her work with that group, Regan testified twice during Vermont's 2011-12 legislative session regarding S. 199, a bill that contained a clause calling for the elimination of Vermont's "philosophical exemption" clause from the state law requiring that all children enrolled in school and child care facilities receive immunizations specified by the department of health.
"It's funny, I'm a native Vermonter, and I had never been to the statehouse before," said Regan who described her initial experience in providing testimony as "terrifying." But those trips to the state capital in Montpelier served as a primer on the legislative process and more.
"I learned so much about immunizations, in part from my research, but also from prominent members of our community, including infectious disease specialists who also were speaking in support of the legislation," said Regan.
Ultimately, the immunization bill passed, but it preserved the philosophical exemption.
- H. 151, which would impose an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, was referred to the Ways and Means Committee.
- H. 109, which proposed raising tax rates on cigarette and tobacco products, was rolled into tax bill H. 436 and passed. It raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 38 cents.
- H. 46 and H. 604, which called for measures to protect young athletes who suffer concussions while participating in athletic activities, were rolled into H. 559 and passed.
FP Serves on Joint School Health Committee
FACTS ABOUT THE VERMONT AFP
Number of chapter members: 369
Date chapter was chartered: April 10, 1951
2012 annual meeting date/location: Nov. 10, Capitol Plaza, Montpelier
"We wanted to make sure that we were working closely with the schools because that's the best way to reach kids in Vermont," said Rabin. "We partnered with the school nurses to help kids get good preventive care and to set up good protocols within schools to help deal with children who have chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or epilepsy," she said.
"We also were overseeing the rewriting of the school nurse handbook and trying to figure out how to help schools get electronic health records for their school nurses," said Rabin, who has since resigned her committee position to tend to a new practice she started with three other FPs in October 2011.
That practice, Richmond Family Medicine, opened in a town where only the most elderly of residents remembered having a town doctor. The practice is thriving, said Rabin. And yes, a good portion of her patient panel is children.
AAFP Chapter Spotlight series
Vermont AFP Tackles Rural Challenges