• Media Offers Platform to Educate Public About Health, Family Medicine

    Cold and flu season is here, and newspaper and TV health reporters from markets around the country likely will be calling their local primary care physicians looking for an interview for what has become an annual story. If the call came to your office, would you respond in a timely fashion? You never know where a simple conversation might lead.

    Talking to the media offers us an invaluable platform to share important public health messages, providing a multiplier effect on our ability to care for our communities. It also provides us with an opportunity to show the vast range of family medicine.

    Many years ago, I was at grand rounds when it was announced that WGAL, our local NBC affiliate in Lancaster, Pa., was looking for a family physician who could participate in health segments for a new talk show. I was intrigued, and out of a few hundred physicians who applied, they picked me.

    It wasn't a paying job, at first, but I saw it as a public service. It wasn't about growing my patient panel. Instead, I saw this as an opportunity to educate the public and decision makers about family medicine and give viewers a better understanding about what we do. I covered topics that involved pediatrics, obstetrics, geriatrics and more and often was asked to comment on breaking news that involved health care. The broad range of topics discussed highlighted the scope of practice that family medicine provides, showcasing our specialty to a 20-county audience.

    After four years of occasional appearances, my segments became weekly features. Eventually, the station asked me to contribute daily segments for the evening news.

    The high profile position with WGAL -- combined with my involvement in the Pennsylvania AFP and advocacy work related to domestic violence -- led to me becoming the Physician General of Pennsylvania, working as a public health adviser to the governor.

    My role with the television station lasted nearly 20 years. Obviously, not every physician who gives an interview will have a career-altering experience. But when your patients read your name in the newspaper or see you on TV, they will feel good, knowing that you are engaged in your community. And by delivering public health messages to a broad audience, you're doing a service for that community and family medicine.

    Should the media contact you directly for comment on AAFP policy or positions, or if they want to discuss national health care issues or AAFP clinical guidelines, please refer them to a member of the AAFP's public relations team Jay Senter works with clinical, health of the public and research topics; Leslie Champlin works with health care legislation and policy, workforce and medical education topics. If the reporters want comment on local health issues, please work with them to provide that and let the PR team know if you need any assistance.

    Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.


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