Washington Doctor Named 2012 Family Physician of the Year

Seattle physician earns prestigious national award for providing culturally competent and compassionate care to the poor and underprivileged, locally and globally

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Janelle Davis
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6253

ORLANDO, Fla. — The American Academy of Family Physicians today named Richard D. Kovar, MD, FAAFP, the national 2012 Family Physician of the Year at the opening ceremony of its annual Scientific Assembly. The award honors one outstanding American family physician who provides patients with compassionate and comprehensive care, and serves as a role model professionally and personally in his or her community, to other health professionals, and to residents and medical students.

Kovar has served as a practicing family physician and medical director of Country Doctor Community Health Centers in Seattle, Wash., for more than 20 years. CDCHC serves an urban, low-income, underserved and largely uninsured patient population. In order to provide culturally competent and compassionate care, Kovar and his staff have committed themselves to understanding the cultures and belief systems of CDCHC’s diverse patient population, including the barriers presented by poverty, homelessness, language, chronic illness and lack of health insurance.

CDCHC provides the full spectrum of family medicine services, including obstetric, pediatric, geriatric, inpatient and outpatient care. Kovar’s interdisciplinary team of health professionals ensures patients have access to the care they need, when they need it, regardless of their ability to pay. CDCHC offers a sliding scale payment system for patients who otherwise might not seek care.

Kovar also is a strong advocate and promoter of the patient-centered medical home model of care, as demonstrated by CDCHC’s electronic health record system, extended office hours, weekend appointments and innovative approach to community health and preventive medicine education. In addition, CDCHC specializes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS — a mission it has been fulfilling since the early years of the epidemic. Rather than relegating care for individuals with HIV to subspecialists, treatment for the disease is completely integrated into CDCHC’s primary care delivery system.

Kovar’s passion for the underserved extends beyond the limits of his workplace. He advocates for health care to the poor at all levels, from direct care to the political realm. He is an active supporter of legislation that funds community health clinics and provides resources to ensure the most vulnerable patient populations have access to a stable medical home. Kovar also is active in King County Project Access, whose mission is to improve access to medical subspecialty services for eligible low-income uninsured and underinsured patients in King County. In addition, Kovar advocates for improved mental health services for community health centers in Washington State.

Kovar also performs pro bono medical evaluations for U.S. asylum seekers who have suffered torture, abuse or war trauma. He has provided this service for nearly 300 people and conducts trainings so that other clinicians can participate in this vital work.

Kovar has worked overseas in nine countries on five continents providing refugee relief services. He also has provided care to patients in a migrant farmworker clinic and in five different Native American reservations with the Indian Health Service.

Kovar additionally serves as an educator and mentor. As a clinical professor of family medicine in the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine, Kovar teaches medical students in their core family medicine clerkships, works with family medicine residents in their community medicine rotations, and has been instrumental in the expansion of residency training sites in community health centers. He has precepted nearly 200 medical students during their third-year family medicine clerkships and enjoys providing clinical shadowing experiences to high school and college students interested in careers in medicine. As a result of his efforts, Kovar has influenced many young people to pursue family medicine as their specialty and to practice in underserved areas.

Kovar has received many awards, including Washington Family Physician of the Year (2010), the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Golden Globe Award (2004), the University of Washington Humanism in Medicine Award (2002) and the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association Helping Us Help You Award (2006). Kovar also is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

Kovar earned his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He completed his first year of family medicine residency at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, N.J., followed by two years of residency at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Ore. He also completed a Hartford Geriatrics Fellowship at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Kovar is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and has the AAFP Degree of Fellow, an earned degree awarded to family physicians for distinguished service and continuing medical education.

Editor’s Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Kovar, please contact Janelle Davis at (800) 274-2237, ext. 5222 or (816) 835-2743. 

Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 115,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Approximately one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 214 million office visits each year — nearly 74 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit
www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer Web site, www.FamilyDoctor.org(familydoctor.org).