March 28, 2022, 2:03 p.m. David Mitchell — The leadership path of Robyn Liu, M.D., M.P.H., will come full circle next month when she returns to Kansas City, Mo., as the convener of the AAFP’s National Conference of Constituency Leaders.
“NCCL was my on-ramp to involvement in the AAFP, really both at the state and the national level,” Liu said. “That was the first event that I was personally invited to attend and was something that really spoke to me as an opportunity to gather with people who did what I did, thought like I did and really wanted to focus on how to make family medicine better.”
NCCL is the AAFP’s leadership development event for women, minorities, new physicians, international medical graduates and LGBTQ+ physicians or physician allies. It is part of the AAFP Leadership Conference, which also includes the Annual Chapter Leader Forum, a leadership development program for chapter-elected leaders, aspiring leaders and chapter staff. The events are scheduled for April 28-30.
Liu, a University of Kansas School of Medicine graduate, spent her first four years in practice in Tribune, Kan., a town of less than 1,000 people about 30 minutes from the Colorado border. Another rural Kansas family physician, Jen Brull, M.D., of Plainville, told Liu she “had to come” to NCCL.
“She recognized that I was somebody who was going to need more of a community in family medicine than just my own little practice environment, so she dragged me along,” Liu said of Brull, now a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.
At her first of many NCCLs in 2009, Liu was encouraged to run for a leadership position. She was elected convener of the women’s constituency.
“NCCL is an ideal sort of testing ground for getting involved in leadership,” she said. “For one thing, it’s a friendly and supportive environment where anybody who really is interested can and should run for positions, volunteer to do things and see if you like it.”
Liu, who lost her first bid for new physician member of the AAFP Board of Directors in 2010 before winning a year later, said the event is an “inclusive, welcoming space” to “try new things and take on roles.”
“If you shoot your shot and lose, come back and try again,” she said. “It’s a great way to get introduced to how policy is made in our specialty. This is how you can make your voice heard and make family medicine better.”
Liu, who also served the Academy on its Commission on Health of the Public and Science and currently serves on the Commission on Membership and Member Services, said she “dove right in to the Board after connecting at NCCL.”
“I got so much out of that year, including relationships,” she said. “You get really close to people you serve with.”
Liu said serving on the AAFP Board gave her a better understanding of the business side of the Academy as well as an “opportunity to see the AAFP in the larger ecosystem of medicine.”
“I was the AAFP representative on an ACOG guidelines committee, for example, so I got to be the family medicine face in other spaces in medicine, which was very cool,” she said.
Liu also served on the Kansas AFP Board of Directors and that chapter’s foundation board and various chapter committees before Oregon Health & Science University, where she trained as a resident, recruited her to return as faculty in 2011. She has continued her leadership efforts in Oregon, serving on the Oregon AFP Board of Directors for seven years, including a term as president in 2018-19.
Liu left her role with OHSU in 2019 and now is physician in charge of a Northwest Permanente primary care clinic with roughly 40 family medicine and internal medicine physicians in Portland. She spends 70% of her time in clinic and 30% on administrative duties.
Just as Brull invited Liu to NCCL more than a decade ago, Liu is pondering which Oregon physicians she might be able to recruit to Kansas City for this year’s event.
“I have a few folks here that I’m watching come out of residency now,” she said, “and I’m waiting for my chance to kind of rope them in and say, ‘This is a way not only to be part of Oregon organized family medicine, but also to see it from the nationwide perspective to meet other people who share your values and have a voice nationally.’”