• A Word From the President

    Achieving Health Equity Starts With Equitable Representation in Medicine

    April 8, 2024

    By Steven Furr, M.D., FAAFP
    AAFP President

    One thing has been a driving force in my career: My belief that all patients deserve health care that is accessible, affordable and equitable. I’ve spent my 39 years as a practicing family physician and nearly 40 years as an AAFP member working to achieve this goal. 

    You’re hearing a lot about health equity — which includes this goal of ensuring all Americans have equitable access to care — during Minority Health Month, and it’s important to recognize that it’s a vision that is completely attainable. We know from research that students from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in medicine are more likely to care for underserved populations in their medical careers and also more likely to choose primary care careers. We need a physician workforce that is diverse and robust, and a physician workforce that truly understands the communities they serve. 

    These two critical components are under threat. Recent legislative efforts at the state and federal level are calling into question the value of equitable representation in medicine by dismantling diversity, equity and inclusion programs in medical schools. I cannot stress enough my and the AAFP’s commitment to protecting these vital programs, which are essential in correcting historical underrepresentation in medicine, improving health outcomes of underserved communities, eliminating racism and discrimination in medicine, and developing a better understanding of diverse cultures. 

    The AAFP team in Washington, D.C., is working closely with other medical societies to ensure our advocacy efforts support members and chapters across the country in our goal to promote diversity in medicine. We are also equipping state chapters with resources to support their advocacy efforts. 

    Part of what makes family medicine so special is our ability to connect with our patients on a deeply personal level. It’s our continued goal to advance diversity, equity and inclusion and grow representation in family medicine and medical education to reach patients who may not trust the medical system and are underserved in their communities.  

    The AAFP continues to advocate for policies that move us toward a more diverse physician workforce that reflects the population. One way we do this is by helping our members address barriers to care every day with several tools and resources. One of my favorite ones to talk about is the Neighborhood Navigator, which is AAFP’s easy-to-use online search engine that helps patients find supportive social services in their area. It’s available to both patients and physicians in 107 languages and lists more than 40,000 social services by ZIP code. Additionally, tools that the Center for Diversity and Health Equity provides, like the EveryONE Project and implicit bias training resources, help move the needle on health equity forward. 

    While much progress has been made to tackle disparities and close equity gaps, I know that more needs to be done. As family physicians, we must keep doors open and keep conversations going about health equity and diversity in medicine with community partners and with our local, state and federal lawmakers. 

    Together, I know we can create an equitable health care system — for our patients, for our communities and for our country. 


    The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.