September 27, 2019 04:46 pm Sheri Porter Philadelphia –Less than four hours after being installed as the Academy's top elected leader during the Congress of Delegates on Sept. 25, AAFP President Gary LeRoy, M.D., of Dayton, Ohio, addressed a much larger audience packed into the Grand Hall at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the start of the 2019 Family Medicine Experience.
It was a dramatic entrance.
To the delight of the audience, LeRoy emerged from their midst and sprinted to the stage amid bright lights and music from Walt Disney Pictures' Aladdin, enthusiastically high-fiving attendees seated on the aisle.
Once onstage, LeRoy took on a more serious demeanor as he shared some poignant notes about his heritage. He spoke of family members from generations past who toiled as cotton sharecroppers in an area of Mississippi where floods were so common that they "eventually washed the little town away."
Those ancestors sought safety in New Orleans, and LeRoy pointed out the irony of being chosen as the AAFP president-elect in that same city in 2018.
Although known for his positive spirit, LeRoy assured the audience he understands the hard realities physicians face every day. "I am a practicing family physician just like many of you," said LeRoy.
AAFP President Gary LeRoy, M.D., took to the main stage at the opening ceremony of the AAFP 2019 Family Medicine Experience to introduce himself to Academy members.
LeRoy commended family physicians for being the heroes -- and "she-roes" -- of America's health care system.
The new AAFP president pledged to highlight the value family physicians bring to America's health care system and the obstacles they face.
He invoked the name of his imaginary childhood alter-ego, MarvelMoon, who was, as he recalled, "a superhero unlimited in his capacity to help."
"MarvelMoon was that spirit within me that wanted to make the world a better place," he said.
LeRoy then shifted his attention to the heroes sitting before him in the audience.
"Every day, you stand up for your patients and work hard on their behalf," he said, whether it's by battling payers over pre-authorizations, keeping the clinic doors open to see that last late patient or meeting parents with a sick baby at the ER.
"You are the physicians who gather patients and their families close when it's time to have those difficult end-of-life discussions," said LeRoy.
"Sometimes being a family physician hero means knowing that the patient sitting in front of you is homeless but not helpless because you've given him the gift of conversation, of caring, of dignity and respect," he added.
Family physicians stand up for patients, fight for change and make life better for their patients, said LeRoy. "This job requires listening intently and responding calmly," he added.
"Everyday heroes have conversations."
He acknowledged the work of the AAFP -- especially in keeping close tabs on government proposals and policies that greatly impact family physicians. He pointed out that when harmful regulations are imposed, the AAFP works to get them fixed or eliminated.
"There is power in our numbers," said LeRoy. "This country needs us."
His next statement drew applause: "Family physicians provide patients with 193 million office visits each year -- more than any other specialty."
LeRoy reminded physicians that it's important for powerful politicians and health insurance executives to hear real stories about what goes on in family medicine clinics around the country. He said AAFP leaders share such member stories at every possible opportunity.
Your stories "increase awareness of the incredible work you do every day, and they also shine a spotlight on the obstacles you face," he said.
He pointed to the No. 1 practice concern that family physicians voice to the AAFP -- administrative complexity.
"Put simply, we're being asked to perform a lot of tasks that take us away from what we love most -- caring for patients."
LeRoy drew comparisons between Indianapolis 500 race car drivers and America's family physicians, noting that they both accomplish a lot in a short amount of time -- one between laps, the other between exam rooms.
The difference is those drivers have a pit crew to change tires, fill the tank and clean the windshield in seconds, but family physicians are responsible for their own EHR data entry, prior authorizations and paperwork.
"How can we ever expect to win a race in such a system? Instead of enjoying a victory lap, we just feel overwhelmed and burned out, and that has got to change," said LeRoy.
As the AAFP's president, LeRoy promised to share physicians' challenges "with those who hold the levers of change in America's health care system."
He noted that technology can sometimes distract rather than inform but promised that even in today's fast-paced environment, the AAFP would execute its member-driven strategic agenda "by staying steady and deliberate in its work."
LeRoy promised that when a crisis erupts or an unforeseen problem swirls to the surface, as undoubtedly they will, the Academy will step up and lead, "because that's what you expect and that's what you deserve."
He reminded his colleagues that the job of steering family medicine in the right direction involves everyone. "Together we will navigate the storms, because this is our specialty," he said.
Lastly, LeRoy reminded the audience that family medicine is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019. The specialty thrives on "building lasting relationships with generations of families, our communities and each other," he said.
And as the audience erupted in applause, whoops and hollers, LeRoy concluded his speech on a high note, proclaiming, "That's 50 years of dedicating ourselves to science and service, 50 years of being part of the best specialty ever, 50 years of being the heroes and 'she-roes' of health care in America."