July 2, 2021, 8:25 a.m. — Primary care is the foundation of health care, so it is imperative that family physicians serve in positions of leadership. Family medicine encompasses the essence of medicine — treating the whole person at any age, in the context of family and community, and with regard for each individual’s unique circumstances. We often are on the front lines, caring for acute conditions and chronic disease in addition to providing preventive medicine, so the significant perspectives of family physicians must be heard when policies that affect physicians and patients are being debated.
I was proud to see family physician Gerald “Gerry” Harmon, M.D., installed as president of the AMA during the recent Special Meeting of the House of Delegates. Harmon knows about leadership. He was elected to the AMA Board of Trustees in 2013 and has served as board chair and secretary. He also has served in numerous leadership roles at the state and local level. He was chief physician for the National Guard Bureau and assistant surgeon general for the U.S. Air Force before retiring with the rank of major general.
This marks the second time in five years that a family physician has served as AMA president. Harmon follows David Barbe, M.D., of Mountain Grove, Mo., who was president in 2017-18. Family medicine leadership isn’t limited to the AMA Board. Roughly 100 family physicians who participate in their state medical association meetings also represent their states in the AMA House of Delegates. During the recent meeting, I was pleased to see three of these family physicians elected to important roles:
Additionally, Mary Carpenter, M.D., of Burke, S.D., was appointed chair of the Council on Legislation.
In addition to the family physicians who represent their states in the House of Delegates, the AAFP has nearly two dozen members in its official AMA delegation. The AAFP delegation and the state delegates caucus, communicating and collaborating to bring the family medicine perspective to resolutions and testimony.
A few years ago, the Academy — which is one of the few organizations that includes medical students, residents and new physicians in its delegation — made a focused effort to recruit more emerging leaders to join the experienced leadership on the AAFP delegation. The result is a dynamic group that represents our incredibly diverse membership well. My thanks to everyone who serves in the AAFP delegation:
Ada Stewart, M.D., is president of the AAFP.