AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., of Spokane, Wash., stood before his family physician colleagues here on Wednesday at the Opening Ceremony of the AAFP Scientific Assembly and reminded them of the challenges the specialty of family medicine faces.
"Every day, some procedural subspecialist tells a medical student, 'You're too smart to be a family physician,'" said Stream. "We're going to change that," he added.
Stream spoke of the tension between what often are referred to as "cognitive versus procedural" physicians and reminded his audience that even though many people place family medicine in the cognitive category of medical specialties, the list of medical procedures routinely performed by family physician is impressive.
"We've delivered babies, injected joints, set fractures and placed casts, performed endoscopic procedures and colposcopies, done minor and even major surgical procedures," said Stream. "Our hands are the hands of the most capable, comprehensive and compassionate physicians known."
Stream told his audience that family physicians must go beyond providing the best possible medical care to America's patients. "We have an ethical obligation to transform our health care system," complete with a solid family medicine foundation.
AAFP members have some new options when it comes to communicating with their elected leader.
After being introduced as president Sept. 14 during the Congress of Delegates, Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., said he plans to use social media to reach out to Academy members.
Stream emphasized similar ideas in AAFP Leader Voices, a new blog that launched on the same day.
The new AAFP president said in his speech and in his blog entry that he plans to use Twitter to give members regular updates on his activities. Follow him @aafpprez(twitter.com). Stream also has a new Facebook account(www.facebook.com) that will provide updates as well.
Stream said he hopes AAFP members will provide feedback through these various social media channels.
"Collectively, our hands must not just treat one patient at a time, but also be the force that transforms our dysfunctional system," Stream added.
Far too many people view America's health care system as an entity so glutted with special interest groups seeking to maintain the status quo that the system cannot be changed, much like an immovable object, according to Stream. But, he noted, "I don't believe in immovable objects. I believe in unstoppable forces."
Stream called family medicine the unstoppable force that would transform America's dysfunctional health care system.
Recalling his college physics class, Stream reminded his audience of famed English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton's second law of motion: namely, force equals mass times acceleration. "To increase our force for change, we must increase both mass and acceleration," said Stream.
He told the audience that in 2011, the AAFP's membership became a mass to be reckoned with when, for the first time, the Academy could boast of more than 100,000 members. Furthermore, said Stream, the Academy added to that "mass" via coalitions with other primary care organizations that also understand family medicine's role in providing high quality and cost-effective health care.
The acceleration piece of Newton's formula is apparent in the efforts of AAFP members and leaders as they engage in advocacy efforts with legislators and embrace the Academy's federal political action committee, known as FamMedPAC, as its sphere of influence broadens, said Stream.
He praised students, residents and recently trained family physicians for their energy and deep commitment to the family medicine revolution. "They are our future, and that future is bright."
The AAFP's new president also acknowledged that the pace of such significant change is slow and often discouraging, but he reminded audience members that "perseverance is in our DNA." Case in point: Stream said it took him 10 years to convince his medical group to implement an electronic health record, and once he succeeded, he returned to school for a master's degree in informatics so he'd be prepared to lead the implementation team. Perseverance in action.
Despite the challenges ahead, Stream urged the group in front of him to focus on the positive.
"As so often happens when we discuss challenges, we forget to share the joy and fulfillment we experience as family doctors," said Stream, and that's a message medical students need to hear. "Being a family physician is the best job in the world, and I love being a family doctor. We are the most complete physicians. We are partners with our patients working toward their best possible health. America needs us to be the foundation for the future."
Stream urged his colleagues to celebrate being family physicians and then return home from Orlando with renewed vigor. "Reach out to members of Congress, precept medical students in your office, be more involved in your Academy," he said. "That's how we'll create a better American health care system."
Above all else, dare to dream the impossible dream, said Stream. "Be part of the unstoppable force of family medicine."