AAFP's New President Tells Family Physicians 'It Is Our Time'

September 30, 2010 06:45 pm Sheri Porter Denver –

AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., shares a smile with the audience after outgoing President Lori Heim, M.D., presents him with the presidential medal during the 2010 Scientific Assembly opening ceremony.

AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., of Waco, Texas, reached out to all AAFP members during his address here on Wednesday when he said, "We are an incredibly diverse group of people," in terms of our political affiliations, our demographics and our opinions on the Academy's policies and actions during the past year.

"Change of the magnitude we are trying to accomplish always meets resistance," said Goertz, adding that AAFP members are "bound together because we believe in family medicine, and we are family physicians."

He reminded all those attending the AAFP Scientific Assembly opening ceremony that family physicians are making a difference in the future of America's health care. That statement is not based on "a wish or whim," said Goertz. It is based on fundamentally understanding that family physicians

  • hold a core belief in what they do,
  • understand that these are unique times and that the specialty is well-positioned to shape the future of health care in the United States, and
  • have of a history of transforming themselves when needed by the health care system around them.

Family physicians have a long history of stepping forward when necessary, even when it is challenging, said Goertz. "We have a tradition of being there when patients need us."

The AAFP's new president led the audience through years of change, going back to 1947 when the forerunner to the AAFP -- the American Academy of General Practice -- was established. That accomplishment was followed decades later by the turmoil of the 1990s managed care era.

The Future of Family Medicine project came together in the current decade as a bold step that ultimately affirmed the American public wants the type of care family physicians provide, as well as the model of care that family medicine was beginning to create.

At that point, said Goertz, the challenge facing the AAFP was how to make family medicine more patient-centered and how to promote those changes -- and the specialty as a whole -- to the outside world.

The Academy rose to the challenge, said Goertz, and he pointed to TransforMED's National Demonstration Project on the patient-centered medical home. He also reminded the audience of the Academy's increased advocacy efforts both at the national and state levels, including the creation of the Academy's political action committee, FamMedPac.

"And slowly, oh so slowly, almost like an aircraft carrier beginning to change course, the landscape began to change, and family medicine moved to the forefront," said Goertz.

"The new health care reality is partly the realization that modern medicine will not always 'fix us,'" he said. "The new political reality is that improving health care is being pitted against the need to constrain governmental costs and to reduce the federal deficit. These forces give family medicine enormous opportunities to show our value and to change the system."

Goertz pointed to the patient-centered medical home, or PCMH, as an intentional, collaborative attempt to improve the primary care physician practice model. "It was not designed to be used as a redesign or enhancement of any other delivery of care," he said.

The support the PCMH model has received from legislators, policy experts, business leaders, and -- most importantly -- patients "should give us confidence and determination to drive forward in spite of challenges, in spite of all those who don't understand what we represent, and in spite of those who misguidedly believe they can take our place," said Goertz.

However, he also acknowledged the anxiety felt by many AAFP members. "I know some of you have not always been happy with what we have done in D.C. … and at the same time, I also know that some others of you have wondered why we did not push for more. It is very hard to please everyone," he noted, but Academy leaders have never forgotten that their responsibility is to represent members.

The political future is uncertain and no one can predict the outcome of the upcoming November elections, said Goertz. "I am also uncertain about what will happen when Congress returns to deal with the onerous, incomprehensible Medicare sustainable growth rate payment formula," he added.

"I do not know how much time it will take to accomplish all that we need. We have made a great start … and we will be there working for you. We must stand together and be willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone else for the sake of our patients, for our profession, for our families and for our communities. We need to understand that it is our time, we need to believe that it is our time, and we need to act like it is our time."