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Wednesday Mar 02, 2016

Leadership Conference Gives Voice to Family Physicians

On May 5, current and future family medicine leaders will devote three days to shaping and strengthening our specialty through two focused tracks at the AAFP Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo. One track, the Annual Chapter Leader Forum (ACLF), is tailored for the leaders who concentrate on issues specific to where their colleagues work and live, while the National Conference of Constituency Leaders (NCCL) amplifies the voice of the underrepresented in Academy leadership.

In 1990 what has become  NCCL convened for the first time as the National Conference of Women, Minority and New Physicians with the promise to begin "the 1990s as a 'Decade of Transition,' during which the AAFP will strive to more effectively integrate the perspectives and concerns of Academy members from these important constituencies, to the benefit of an increasingly diverse membership and patient population."

© 2016 Tiffany Matson/AAFP
Here I am testifying during the 2015 National Conference of Constituency Leaders. This year's event will be held May 5-7 in Kansas City, Mo., as part of the AAFP Leadership Conference.

Through the last two and a half decades, member constituencies -- now women, minorities, new physicians, international medical graduates (IMGs), physicians who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) or who support GLBT issues -- have gathered each spring to discuss important issues and advance AAFP policy.

When the NCCL convenes for the 26th time this year, the event will be slightly different, in that the traditional new attendee orientation will take place during the evening of May 4, prior to the official start of the conference. We also have the privilege of hosting several amazing speakers and teachers as well as the yearly policymaking and business sessions.   

I first attended the National Conference of Special Constituencies (a previous name of NCCL) in 2012 as the new physician delegate from Kentucky. I was in awe of the camaraderie and amazing ideas flowing from this incredibly diverse group of individuals. Even with disparate viewpoints, backgrounds and practice environments, the attendees worked together to craft important resolutions that have impacted the larger membership as a whole.

This will mark my fifth consecutive NCCL, and I can't wait to hear what my colleagues have to say about the many issues our specialty faces. I will continue to come back each year, whether in a leadership position or not, so I can support the idea that everyone needs a voice.

This year, I have the privilege and responsibility of being the convener for the conference. That means I get to help plan the meeting and guide those plans to fruition with lots and lots of help from both AAFP staff and my co-convener team, a group of elected physicians representing each of the constituency groups. We've already been working hard to put together not only the content portion of the conference, but also to encourage every state chapter to register and send delegates to represent each of the constituency groups. The Academy even sets aside funding, available to each chapter, to offset the cost of travel for one new physician delegate. If you or someone you know is interested in representing your state as a new physician or in one of the other constituency groups, contact your chapter leadership.

Much like the conferences of years past, our goal is to give voice to the members of the AAFP who may otherwise lack representation. We want to hear from you! Whether as a new physician, woman, minority, member of the GLBT community, or international medical graduate, we all need a voice and a way to be heard. This conference provides that venue and encourages all of us to represent our "increasingly diverse membership and patient population." Any attendee can also volunteer to participate with the reference committees responsible for reviewing subsets of the resolutions put forth by the members in attendance or run for one of several leadership positions, including the constituency co-conveners and the new physician member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

On the other track of the leadership conference, chapter-elected leaders, aspiring leaders and chapter staff will refine their leadership skills, learn from each others' experiences and strengthen their relationships at ACLF.

Whether you are interested in a leadership position or not, the conference offers a unique opportunity that most other medical organizations have only begun to embrace. We each have a voice and things we are passionate about. Let your voice be heard and plan to attend the 2016 AAFP Leadership Conference May 5-7 in Kansas City.

Gerry Tolbert, M.D., is a board-certified family physician who practices in northern Kentucky. A lifelong technophile, his interests include the intersection of medicine and technology. You can follow him on Twitter @DrTolbert(twitter.com).

Posted at 11:14AM Mar 02, 2016 by Gerry Tolbert, M.D.

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