AAFP Seeks Applicants for 2019-20 Health Equity Fellowship

May 29, 2019 04:02 pm Chris Crawford

Building on a successful inaugural run, the AAFP, along with the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, is seeking applicants for the yearlong 2019-20 health equity fellowship.  

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As many as six fellows will be accepted in the upcoming term, a substantial increase from the three Academy members who currently are participating. Applications are due Aug. 9.

Current health equity fellow Karen Isaacs, M.D., M.P.H., of Chapel Hill, N.C., told AAFP News that as health disparities continue to be a longstanding problem in health care, this fellowship provides a vehicle for family physicians to get involved in innovative ways.

"It's a great opportunity to highlight family physicians as sources of relevant skills, experience, knowledge and passion for community health -- which can advance us toward the goal of improved value while helping close the gap on health disparities," she said.

Fellowship Commitment, Activities

Fellows must commit to participate from Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.

Story Highlights
  • The AAFP, along with the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, is seeking applicants for the yearlong 2019-20 health equity fellowship.
  • Fellows must commit to participating from Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.
  • Fellows will be required to complete a capstone project that identifies a specific health equity issue facing the fellow's community and offers a measurable strategy for how it will be addressed.

With approval from their institution, practice or department chair, fellows are expected to dedicate about 10% of their time (about 15-20 hours a month) to the fellowship. A nominal stipend will be provided.

Fellows will participate in quarterly learning modules and meet periodically with each other, their assigned mentors and AAFP staff via conference calls/webinars and in-person meetings.

Fellows must agree to commit travel time to attend four in-person meetings:

  • Oct. 18, 2019: Fellowship orientation, AAFP headquarters, Leawood, Kan.;
  • Feb. 7-9, 2020: Winter Cluster, Kansas City, Mo., or April 3-7, 2020: Program Directors Workshop-Residency Program Solutions, Kansas City, Mo.;
  • May 18-19, 2020: Family Medicine Advocacy Summit, Washington, D.C. (or their AAFP chapter's Advocacy Day, if available); and
  • Oct. 13-17, 2020: AAFP Family Medicine Experience, Chicago.

It should be noted that the AAFP will reimburse travel and lodging expenses up to $1,500 for each meeting, per Academy policy. No per diem or family travel expenses will be paid.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for this fellowship, interested applicants must be

  • AAFP active members, especially those underrepresented in medicine and/or practicing in rural communities;
  • in practice or on teaching faculty (program directors or associate program directors and other core family medicine faculty are eligible); and
  • out of residency and fellowship.

Applicants need to submit a curriculum vitae and letter of interest. The letter of interest should be fewer than 500 words in length and must include

  • reasons the applicant wants to be a fellow, including a discussion of major strengths and qualifications for the program;
  • experience and/or contributions in the health equity field, either through professional work or through community or volunteer service, and how they will contribute to the fellowship experience;
  • plans for continued development of health equity leadership skills after completion of the fellowship;
  • information on how the applicant will contribute to the development of health equity at the national, regional or local level, in conjunction with his/her employer; and
  • a discussion of how the fellowship experience will affect the applicant's overall career goals and direction.

In addition, applicants must complete the AAFP's conflict of interest form (select Option 2), agreeing to commit 10% of full-time equivalent protected time to participate in the fellowship.

A letter of recommendation must also be submitted by someone familiar with the applicant's knowledge, skills and ability to contribute to the health equity field.

Capstone Project

Applicants will be required to submit a one- to two-page proposal that briefly describes one health equity project they would like to complete during the fellowship term. This capstone project is a key part of the overall leadership development experience.

The proposed project should focus on a health equity topic that is relevant to the applicant's work and/or the work of his or her institution, practice or department. Preference will be given to projects that focus on the priority areas of the Academy's The EveryONE Project, as well as academic family medicine and rural health.

The capstone project proposal must include the following:

  • Introduction, goal and vision: Applicants should provide an overview of their chosen health equity topic, an explanation of why it is important and details about the project location (e.g., their work site). What is the applicant's goal for this project? What is the applicant's vision of the future and how will this project move him or her closer to that vision?
  • Timeline: What clearly defined, measurable tasks do applicants plan to accomplish during the 12-month fellowship?
  • Institutional support: What financial or in‐kind resources will applicants' institution, practice or department make available to help them implement the proposed project during the fellowship?

Fellows will also be expected to contribute to the development of content and products that the AAFP creates to support the ongoing education, skills-building and awareness of AAFP members, including but not limited to toolkits, issue briefs, trainings and presentations.

Throughout their experience, fellows can expect to be coached by assigned mentors and AAFP staff on a regular basis.

Current Fellows Describe Experience

Current health equity fellow Paul Ravenna, M.D., of Chicago, described his personal experience in the program to AAFP News as both challenging and fulfilling.

"My mentor has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and start thinking about all of the people in charge of making the decisions that impact health equity, then focusing on how to target them with my work," he said. "To put it kindly, these decisionmakers do not always see the world through the lens of health equity. Finding ways to engage them in conversation has been interesting but, little by little, I think we are chipping away."

Although only halfway through her fellowship, Isaacs said she's learned a great deal, including having a clearer understanding about the national and state infrastructure of the AAFP, its governance and how its leaders and delegates work for family physicians.

She also had her first opportunity to meet with local politicians and discuss bills that impact health care, which she said, "greatly broadened my understanding of, and confidence in, how to be an advocate for our patients."

Within the scope of her fellowship capstone project, Isaacs said she learned of the unexpected struggle of pulling meaningful data from EHRs to describe and reflect health disparities. So now, generating data markers of health equity from EHRs has become a secondary goal for her project.

"I have gleaned much from what other like-minded FPs around the country are doing around social determinants of health and have realized that local cultural and geographic differences may impact the speed at which progress is achieved toward health equity in health care systems," Isaacs said. "At the same time, I am proud of what I see my local health system doing in terms of working collectively with community organizations to improve the social determinants of health."

Isaacs added that she would emphasize this fellowship focuses on family physicians' personal growth and grassroots change.

"Any family physician who sees, and wants to work on, local disparities in health may find this fellowship to be a great fit," she said.

Application Details

All application materials must be submitted by Aug. 9 via email to Danielle Jones, M.P.H., manager of the Center for Diversity and Health Equity.

Applications will be acknowledged via email on receipt. A committee will then review the applications and select as many as six fellows. These fellows will be notified via email by Aug. 30, as will all unsuccessful applicants.

Ravenna said this fellowship has helped him bolster the skills needed to be part of the solution to a broken health care system that currently isn't designed to promote health equity.

"If you are fed up with barriers to care, with the U.S. system of 'wealth care' instead of health care, with poor results in important health care outcomes (e.g., maternal mortality rates), and with your patients continuing to fall through the cracks and being let down by the system that is supposed to help them when they are vulnerable, then I'd strongly recommend you consider applying," he said.

Related AAFP News Coverage
AAFP Looking for 2018-19 Health Equity Fellows
(9/12/2018)