October 19, 2020, 7:25 am News Staff – Every year, AAFP constituent chapters nominate roughly two dozen family physicians who are doing outstanding work in their practices, communities and states for the Family Physician of the Year award.
In an unprecedented year such as this, however, it was an impossible task to pick just one of the 136,700 Academy members who have been helping their communities with the stark reality of COVID-19.
We have heard from family physicians who are on the front lines of public health efforts in their own communities, as well as those working on a much broader scale.
We have lost family physicians to COVID-19, and many others fell ill. Some managed to care for patients virtually while also battling the virus at home. Others isolated themselves to protect their own families but still had loved ones afflicted by the virus.
Many family physicians struggled to acquire adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, and others worked on innovative solutions that ranged from helping large health systems implement a decontamination process for used N95 masks, to truly unique strategies that independent physicians came up with for their own small practices. Sometimes it was patients who rallied to provide protection for their valued physician.
When patients were reluctant to seek regular care because of fear of the virus, some Academy members made home visits, or offered curbside care. Thousands of others rapidly adopted telemedicine to both help their communities and sustain their practices during the crisis.
In nursing homes, palliative care centers and hospices, family doctors rushed to protect vulnerable patients and staff and adapted to new ways to help patients and families navigate end-of-life situations.
Family doctors helped their hospitals prepare for the coming surge in COVID-19 cases with redeployment to ERs, ICUs and testing facilities. In the midst of this chaos, academic family physicians continued to teach in unprecedented conditions while others fought to protect their residents’ training amid the upheaval.
One group of residents found a way to complete their training together even after their residency program closed. Denied some of their rotations because of the pandemic, medical students found other ways to help their communities.
These are just some examples of the many ways AAFP members adapted, sacrificed and delivered for their patients and communities.
As Academy CEO/EVP Shawn Martin said Oct. 16 during the Family Medicine Experience, “It didn’t seem right to select just one recipient this year.” Thus, the AAFP has named all FPs the Family Physicians of the Year.
“Each and every one of you has gone above and beyond this year, even more than you normally do, to care for your patients, staff and community,” said Martin, who added that AAFP members have “been through tremendous strife” but have been rocks for their patients and communities through it all.