The program aims to increase the number of well-trained future family medicine leaders by offering up-and-coming family medicine residents and medical students a yearlong leadership development training opportunity.
All 30 scholars from the 2018 class received a $1,000 scholarship to attend the program and the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Mo., last year.
Scholars participated in intensive workshops at AAFP headquarters in Leawood, Kan., that focused on three tracks: Policy & Public Health Leadership, Personal & Practice Leadership, and Philanthropic & Mission-driven Leadership.
Following a day-and-a-half of workshops, scholars were assigned a mentor to work with them on a post-conference project based on their chosen track of study.
The AAFP Foundation Board of Trustees reviewed these projects and awarded four scholars (two students and two residents) from each track of study an additional $1,000 scholarship for their return to the 2019 National Conference on July 26 to present and showcase their projects.
The overall best project award winner from each track of study received an additional $3,000 scholarship to participate in an AAFP or AAFP Foundation national event related to their track of study. The three best project award winners were:
Eli Lilly and Co., Intarcia Therapeutics Inc., and Pharmavite Nature Made were the Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute Corporate Program Sponsors for the 2018 class.
Fitzgerald, who was a fourth-year medical student at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainsville when she participated in the program, looked to improve nutrition counseling in University of Florida Community Health and Family Medicine clinics through her project, titled A Nutrition Counseling Framework for Family Medicine.
Now a first-year resident at St. Anthony North Family Medicine Residency in Westminster, Colo. -- a suburb of Denver -- she decided to focus her project on what she described as one of the biggest public health challenges currently facing our country: obesity.
"So much of our patients' suffering can be traced back to obesity-related conditions," Fitzgerald said. "When I started learning how many of these diseases can be prevented and even reversed through a healthful diet, I couldn't help but wonder why we as family physicians weren't talking about this with every single patient."
With that in mind, she said the overall goal of this project was to support family physicians in having that conversation.
Fitzgerald teamed with several nutrition counseling experts to develop, implement and assess a framework to improve nutrition counseling in the seven University of Florida family medicine clinics.
First, they surveyed physicians and patients in the clinics to identify needs and barriers, respectively, to giving and receiving this care. Then the group developed a toolkit of patient handouts and access guides to community nutrition resources that was integrated into EHRs' printable patient instructions.
"We were able to offer a variety of educational, financial and practical resources for healthy eating to our patients -- including a free cooking class at one of our clinics," Fitzgerald said.
As for her experience during her project, she said she learned not only about general nutrition but also how it impacts public health, as well as about how politics surrounds the food industry.
"It has helped me to gain perspective about large-scale factors that affect our country's dangerous eating habits, which is a passion I plan to pursue going forward," Fitzgerald said.
Ton, now a third-year resident at Northwell Health Phelps Family Medicine Residency Program in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., focused on creating an online resource for medical students and residents to learn the basics of finances with her project, titled Dr. Piggy Bank: Improving Physician Financial Literacy Early.
One key pillar of physician wellness is financial literacy and health, she said.
"Generally, it is perceived that increasing financial literacy can improve workplace satisfaction and job performance, therefore improving one's overall wellness," Ton said. "However, it is well established that there is a lack of financial literacy among residents and fellows. Despite the staggering costs of medical education, courses in financial literacy are not required for entry into medical school, nor is financial savviness a measure of clinical competency."
Ton's project attempts to address this deficit by creating a simple, easy-to-read, user-friendly and unbiased website that provides information on the basics of finances.
As background for her project, she surveyed medical students and found that although 100% of respondents wished financial education was incorporated into their medical education, none of them said their school included a financial course in the curriculum.
After being asked to visit the Dr. Piggy Bank website, about 88% said they would return to the site, and about 82% said they needed such a resource.
To meet the educational need for financial literacy in the physician community, particularly during medical school training, Ton also proposed that all future medical school curriculum include financial education.
"Upon graduation, young residents and physicians should feel comfortable handling personal finances and have a decreased level of stress associated with finances, hopefully resulting in higher satisfaction with their career choices and financial situation and reduced risk of burnout," she said.
Rogers, now a third-year resident in the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson Residency Program, used her project, titled the Arizona Asylum Network,(prezi.com) to organize a statewide training program for physicians and psychologists interested in performing medical evaluations for asylum seekers.
Through the Arizona Asylum Network, attorneys can now reach out to a wide-ranging group of medical professionals for forensic medical and psychological evaluations that are used in asylum cases.
"The reason (medical evaluations) are important is that the burden of proof falls on the asylum seeker," Rogers explained. "However, many people are fleeing violence with little to no medical records or documentation of trauma they endured."
Supporting this need for medical evaluations of asylum seekers, Rogers cited a 2008 study that compared 2000-2004 asylum grant rates among U.S. asylum seekers who received medical evaluations from Physicians for Human Rights (89%) with those who did not receive evaluations (37.5%).
Rogers said 72 medical professionals attended the initial September 2018 training for the Arizona Asylum Network.
"For the past year, I have been running the network with one other resident and pairing all referred cases with (medical professionals)," she said, adding that the final piece of her project was building a database to track outcomes in the state.
"I hope to meet the community's need of having more (medical professionals) trained and able to connect with attorneys to perform asylum evaluations," Rogers said. "I loved participating in the Emerging Leaders Institute program. It inspired me to dream bigger than I ever thought was possible."
The AAFP Foundation has announced the fifth class of scholars in its Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute.
All 30 scholars from the 2019 class received a $1,000 scholarship to attend the program and the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Mo., in July.
The application period for the 2020 Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute opens mid-December and closes March 1.
The complete list of award recipients in each track of study and their respective institutions also includes
Policy & Public Health Leadership
Personal & Practice Leadership
Philanthropic & Mission-driven Leadership
The Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute is supported by donations from individual family physicians. To donate, visit the AAFP Foundation website and designate your gift to the Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute.
Related AAFP News Coverage
Family Medicine Leads
Best Project Winners Named in Emerging Leader Institute