2014 Congress of Delegates

AAFP Delegates Debate Issues Past, Present and Future

October 22, 2014 04:00 pm Sheri Porter Washington –

Preserve the past and look to the future. That was the underlying theme of some resolutions debated here on Oct. 21 by delegates to the AAFP's 2014 Congress of Delegates.

"It's important to be able to touch our roots," says Arizona delegate Edward Schwager, M.D., of Tucson, in reference committee testimony about preserving the early history of family medicine.

In testimony before the Reference Committee on Organization and Finance on Oct. 20, for example, family physicians expressed a strong desire to preserve some of the organization's history from its first headquarters building constructed in 1956 in Kansas City, Mo.

The Missouri AFP submitted a resolution asking the AAFP to salvage the original seal -- which reflected the organization's name at that time, American Academy of General Practitioners -- and possibly other symbols of historical significance. The building, occupied by the (now) AAFP until 1973, is scheduled for demolition in the near future.

Missouri AFP President Daniel Purdom, M.D., of Liberty, told the reference committee that unless such artifacts are preserved, "tangible elements of our history will be gone forever." He said the demolition of the Academy's original seal would be a "terrible loss."

Story Highlights
  • The Reference Committee on Organization and Finance considered testimony on a number of key family medicine issues during the AAFP's 2014 Congress of Delegates in Washington.
  • During the Oct. 21 business session, delegates adopted a resolution that asks the AAFP to salvage artifacts -- including the organization's original seal -- from the Academy's first home in Kansas City, Mo., a building that is set for demolition.
  • Delegates also addressed other issues, including resolutions on moving to the International System of Units, wording of the oath associated with the AAFP's Degree of Fellow and global health initiatives.

Minnesota alternate delegate Daron Gersch, M.D., of Albany, told the committee that he traveled to Washington a few days before the meeting to introduce his young son to iconic American artifacts such as the Apollo 11 space capsule. "The effect on him was enormous," said Gersch. "We need the actual (AAGP) seal, not a picture, not a replicate."

Missouri alternate delegate Keith Ratcliff, M.D., of Washington, agreed, saying, "Once it's gone, it's gone. It would cost about 10 cents per member to preserve this for all family physicians."

Despite a fiscal note of nearly $10,000 -- and a recommendation from the AAFP's Center for the History of Family Medicine to preserve the memory of the seal through photographs -- the reference committee recommended adoption and encouraged the Academy to look at alternative funding solutions. Delegates agreed.

The only other resolution the reference committee recommended for adoption was introduced by the Georgia AFP and asked the AAFP to work with the AMA toward establishing the International System of Units (SI, from le Système International d’ Unités) -- or the modern form of the metric system -- as the common medical measurement.

Georgia delegate Beulette Hooks, M.D., of Midland, told the reference committee, "It's never wrong to do the right thing." For nearly 50 years, she said, interested parties had been trying to get the SI system adopted. Hooks encouraged the committee to act: "Let's get the International System in place," she said.

The committee recommended adoption of the resolution, but during the business session, the resolution was extracted for further debate.

Pennsylvania delegate Russell Breish, M.D., of Fort Washington, addressed the issue from the floor of the Congress. "We support the spirit of this, but we're not sure the AAFP should be committed to a five-year mission," he said. Breish suggested the matter be referred to the AAFP Board of Directors. The delegates agreed.

Another resolution ended up on the Board's future to-do list, this one related to wording in the oath associated with the AAFP Degree of Fellow that states physicians swear to provide comprehensive and continuing health care to their patients "placing their welfare above all else."

Tennessee delegate Lee Carter, M.D., of Huntingdon, explains his position on the AAFP fellowship oath during reference committee testimony saying that as currently written, the oath does not provide for a proper balance between a physician's personal and professional life.

Member constituency alternate delegate Robin Barnett, D.O., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told the reference committee the meaning of those words was often misconstrued. "I understand the intent and spirit -- to be pure in ethics and morals in patient care," said Barnett, but she suggested a review by the Board.

Illinois delegate David Hagan, M.D., of Gibson City, told the committee he took the fellowship oath 30 years ago. "We need to reword it to make it more beneficial for today's world," he said.

The reference committee and, later, delegates agreed that referral to the Board was appropriate.

Delegates also adopted a recommendation to reaffirm the AAFP's work on global health initiatives.

Other resolutions vigorously debated but eventually not adopted included measures on

  • developing a task force to study member representation in the Congress,
  • ending the AAFP's alliance with The Coca-Cola Company, and
  • changing requirements for awarding the AAFP's Degree of Fellow.