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Wednesday Jan 23, 2019

Family of Family Medicine Is Working to Expand the Workforce

The specialty of family medicine is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. During the past half century, there have been many changes in medical education, health care financing and care delivery. Changes continue to occur at a rapid pace. Family medicine needs broad initiatives to stay abreast and help lead this transformation.

[people spelling team in white letters]

Large-scale projects require a team approach, and family medicine is blessed to have a great team. Twice a year, the "family" of family medicine meets in person to address the broad issues facing the discipline. Known as the Family Medicine Working Party,(www.aafpfoundation.org) the event provides a venue for communication and collaborative work. The family is composed of the eight organizations that represent the breadth of the specialty and aim to address its needs regarding education, certification, research, philanthropy and more:

  • the AAFP,
  • the AAFP Foundation,
  • the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM),
  • the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (ACOFP),
  • the Association of Departments of Family Medicine (ADFM),
  • the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors (AFMRD),
  • the North American Primary Care Research Group, and
  • the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM).

The first step toward a Working Party was an ad hoc planning committee in 1977 comprised of the AAFP, the American Board of Family Practice (now ABFM), STFM and the Family Health Foundation of America (now the AAFP Foundation). The first official Working Party happened two years later with representatives from those four organizations. The stated objectives of the conference were to improve communication, delineate areas of responsibilities both common and unique to each organization, enhance cooperation and avoid duplication of effort. One of the earliest work products of the meetings was a position paper on the medical education accreditation system.

The groups began meeting biannually in 1981 and eventually expanded to include the other organizations.

Family medicine organizations, working together, created the Future of Family Medicine Project in 2002 and, more recently, Family Medicine for America's Health(fmahealth.org) (FMAHealth) in 2013.

During the past five years, the major focus of Working Party has been the tremendous work of FMAHealth. As that project is winding to a close, the initiatives born from its tactic teams are being handed off to the various organizations to continue their progress. During this process, the organizations are working together in a collaborative and coordinated fashion.

For example, the AAFP has taken a lead role on the ambitious America Needs More Family Doctors: 25 x 2030 collaborative. ACOFP, ADFM, AFMRD and STFM are working on various aspects of the initiative, which aims to ensure that by 2030, 25 percent of U.S. allopathic and osteopathic medical students select family medicine as their specialty choice.

Obviously, there must be a multifaceted approach. Interventions must begin before a student enters medical school, impact the process of medical education, and assure ample graduate medical education training opportunities. The current practice of medicine and the outlook for the specialty's future have a significant impact on students, underscoring the importance of reducing administrative burden, achieving meaningful payment reform, and providing practical and meaningful ongoing professional self-regulation. This is more than one organization can accomplish alone.

The 25 x 2030 project was a focus of the Working Party meeting earlier this month. All eight organizations worked together to develop ideas and direction for moving this project forward. The collaborative spirit during the meeting was amazing, and the communication between the groups was incredible. The family worked together as a cohesive team, just as it has done since the inception of this important meeting.

Each of the organizations has committed staff and members/diplomates to a steering committee for the collaborative. The committee will meet in March to set an agenda. As priorities are defined and projects initiated, other members of these organizations -- and allies from outside family medicine and even outside medicine -- also will be engaged. Achieving this workforce reform will take each of us -- where we stand, in our communities, clinics, institutions and health systems -- advocating for change.

The 25 x 2030 project is just one example of how we must continue to work together for the specialty. The structure put in place in the late 1970s will continue to lend itself to large-scope initiatives that will affect family physicians in all practice settings.

Michael Munger, M.D., is Board Chair of the AAFP.

Posted at 09:37AM Jan 23, 2019 by Michael Munger, M.D.

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