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Wednesday Apr 16, 2014

Chance to Shape FP Training, Education Prompts Career Move

I've lived my whole life in Indiana. My children -- like the three generations before them -- grew up here as well. Those children, now adults, still live near us here in Indianapolis.

My education and training -- from Ball State University to the Indiana University School of Medicine and the family medicine residency at Community Health Network -- all happened in the Hoosier State.

I'll be leaving my home state of Indiana behind next month to start a new job as the AAFP's vice president of education at the Academy's offices in Leawood, Kan.

My career started in rural private practice in the small town of Flora, Ind. -- population 2,000 -- before I came back to Indianapolis as faculty at the residency where I had trained. I stayed with Community Health Network for more than 20 years as residency director, vice president of medical affairs for two of its hospitals, chief medical officer for the entire eight-hospital network and, most recently, as the network's chief academic and medical affairs officer.

So what would it take to get me to leave my home state? Nothing less than a chance to make a positive, lasting difference in the education and training of medical students, family medicine residents and our active members on a national scale. That, of course, goes hand-in-hand with enhancing the quality of care delivered by our specialty.

I'll be leaving my position on the AAFP Board of Directors on May 3 (after the Board meets during the Annual Leadership Forum and National Conference of Special Constituencies). Nine days later, I'll start a new journey in Leawood, Kan., as the Academy's vice president for education.

I feel as though I have been training for this role for the past three decades. The majority of my career has been devoted to medical education and improving quality of care, so it's a natural fit. For example, for the past five years, my job responsibilities have included oversight of medical student education at our network's hospitals, our residency programs and the CME offerings we produce.

At the AAFP, I will be responsible for the Academy's efforts related to medical education and CME, including the education and training of medical students and residents; student interest in our specialty, including federal policies that affect it; and CME curriculum development, production, accreditation and regulations.

Many challenges await, but I'm excited to lead the AAFP's excellent staff who work in these areas, including those who support two commissions -- the Commission on Continuing Professional Development and the Commission on Education -- composed of family physicians who volunteer their time to address these vital issues.

We must ensure that medical students have top-notch exposure to family medicine and that they have good experiences when they do. That can be difficult, in part, because practicing physicians who enjoy teaching have competing demands for their time. But there is no doubt that good role models help build student interest in the specialty.

We are facing a shortage of primary care physicians that likely will worsen because of an aging population, a sizable number of physicians nearing retirement and a large number of patients gaining access to insurance as a result of health care reform. More -- and more targeted -- funding for family medicine residencies is needed to meet this demand, and GME funding and reform are high on the list of the Academy's legislative priorities.

Family physicians want to keep up-to-date with evidence-based CME, and the Academy will continue to improve and expand its offerings to ensure timely and convenient access to high-quality CME. We will build on the strong programing currently offered, and we always appreciate input from our members on how to better serve their CME needs.

On a more personal note, the challenges of this role also include succeeding the immensely accomplished and respected Perry Pugno, M.D., M.P.H., who is retiring after 40 years in family medicine, including 15 years of service to the Academy.

The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities. The key to improving health care in this country is to make it more primary care-oriented by placing greater emphasis on prevention and wellness. Family medicine is the specialty that does that better than any other. I am proud to have this opportunity to further strengthen our specialty through continuing efforts to enhance medical education at all levels.

Clif Knight, M.D., is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 01:10PM Apr 16, 2014 by H. Clifton Knight, M.D.

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