Today is one of transition for the AAFP. Shawn Martin, the Academy's senior vice president for advocacy, practice advancement and policy for the past eight years, transitions to the role of CEO designee, working closely with longtime AAFP CEO and EVP Douglas Henley, M.D., until Henley's retirement on Aug. 1.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Stephanie Quinn, formerly the director of the Academy's Division of Government Relations, succeeds Martin in the senior vice president role. AAFP News recently sat down with Quinn to discuss her new role and the challenges facing family medicine.
Q: You have been with the Academy for nearly a year. What have you learned about family medicine, the Academy and its members so far?
A: Our members are an energized and passionate bunch. I have never seen this level of engagement and interest in participation and contributing. It's encouraging. They have sent Speak Outs to members of Congress and called me directly to share their concerns. They care so deeply about what they do -- inside and outside of office hours -- that it inspires us to keep working hard on their behalf.
Q: Your previous experience included work for the American Society for Radiation Oncology. What drew you to family medicine as opposed to another specialty?
A: To be honest, the real reason I'm here is the brand that the team in D.C. built for the Academy. I have worked in health care for more than 15 years in D.C. and, through the years, the AAFP has had a solid reputation as a thoughtful collaborator and partner ready to contribute and build solutions. That is what brought me here. My hope is that I can build on that reputation and continue to pursue policies that meet the needs of our members in this shifting environment.
Q: You spent more than a decade on the payer side of lobbying with BlueCross. How does that experience help you in this role of advocating for family physicians?
A: It is very much aligned with my work. It is easy to vilify the other side of an issue. I think the deeper understanding I have about how insurance companies contribute to the health care ecosystem helps us to better understand what informs their world view and to position our needs successfully.
Q: The Academy already has had a few advocacy wins during the pandemic, including regulation changes related to telehealth. Are we working to make that change permanent, and what else do you want members to know regarding our work related to COVID-19?
A: Some yes and some no. We were encouraged with the speed at which the federal government responded to physician needs during this pandemic -- quickly paying for telephone-only telehealth, then paying at parity, waiving cost-sharing for tests and treatment -- all very encouraging to expand access to care during this unprecedented time. In a post-pandemic environment, some of these changes make sense and should become part of the "new normal," and others perhaps need to be reconsidered. My hope is that this pandemic has underscored the need for a robust and well-resourced primary care system.
Q: What are a few of the most important issues facing family medicine from an advocacy standpoint?
A: There are lots to choose from! Ensuring that advances in technology and information sharing actually result in better care and not another administrative hoop or barrier for our members providing care to their patients is very important. I also think this pandemic illustrated the vulnerabilities of building a primary care system on a fee-for-service chassis. Wellness and prevention and effectively managing chronic diseases are not aligned with a system that is built on volume. My sincere hope is that this inspires people to take bold steps to move toward a better system that resources primary care in a way that acknowledges the incredible value it provides the system. It certainly won't be easy, but I've adopted the mantra of "Fighting for Family Medicine!"
Q: How can members get involved in the Academy's advocacy efforts?
A: I'm glad you asked! This week we are rolling out our first ever "Week of Action." Our members will have the opportunity to engage with their members of Congress and let them know how this pandemic is impacting physicians and their communities. It's important for legislators to hear from our members as they are shaping policy to understand the impact to family physicians and patients. Members should also sign up for the Family Medicine Action Network to connect with other advocacy-oriented members and receive updates. In addition, they can subscribe to receive our weekly Advocacy Insider newsletter, where they can learn more about our advocacy efforts and issues important to family medicine.
Q: You are on the Board of Alluma,(www.alluma.org) which works with public and private organizations to help connect low-income families to health care, nutrition and other critical programs. How did you get involved with that organization?
A: Someone on the board knew of my passion to solve problems and connect people. This company does just that. These issues rise above politics and require the input and perspective of those balancing the pressure of managing state budgets, technological impediments to solving problems and people needing help. My work there has been very fulfilling.
Q: Readers of this blog are very familiar with Shawn Martin's love of the Washington Nationals and the Oklahoma Sooners. What are your interests outside of health care that we might hear more about later?
A: Fortunately, or unfortunately, no one will have to look too far to find another Nats fan. My dad actually has dirt from the last Washington Senators home game in 1971, so I inherited his love of D.C. sports -- most especially the Nats. But above that, when I'm not working (and social distancing doesn't prohibit), I spend lots of time trying not to get thrown out of my sons' Little League baseball games.