At a time when our collective focus is arguably on ensuring that we distance ourselves from those around us, it's particularly gratifying to have cause to come together in celebration.
During a July 6 gathering, AAFP EVP/CEO Douglas Henley, M.D., explains the significance of the various images in his official portrait. Henley will retire on Aug. 1 after 20 years at the Academy's helm.
That was the scenario July 6, when a small group of Academy leaders, staff and special guests -- necessarily pared down by workplace restrictions instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic -- gathered at AAFP headquarters in Leawood, Kan., to witness the unveiling of the official portrait of outgoing EVP and CEO Douglas Henley, M.D., who is retiring as of Aug. 1.(122 KB PDF)
Among those who participated in the festivities were Henley's immediate predecessor, Robert Graham, M.D., as well as EVP/CEO designee Shawn Martin. Graham, now national program director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Aligning Forces for Quality program, led the Academy from 1985-2000; Martin was previously AAFP Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Practice Advancement and Policy, a post he had held since 2012.
Serving as unofficial master of ceremonies, Deputy EVP and COO Todd Dicus, J.D., C.A.E., kicked off the occasion, noting that in his time with the organization, Henley has carried on a tradition nearly three-quarters of a century in the making: "The Academy's been very fortunate in terms of the leaders we've had to help shepherd the organization through these changing times but ultimately making sure that bond between physician and patient remains strong."
Moving on to the main event, it was clear that although undraping the painting -- one of a handful of former AAFP leaders -- took only a few seconds, the collection of memorable images revealed was decades in the making. Henley explained the significance of each of the keepsakes highlighted in the portrait:
- the painting depicting famed physician, educator, social reformer and civic leader Benjamin Rush during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia he received to mark his AAFP presidential year from 1995-1996;
- a pair of basketballs honoring the Tar Heels of his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his adopted University of Kansas Jayhawks;
- an inukshuk -- or stone cairn the Inuit used primarily to navigate the frozen northern terrain -- from Calvin Gutkin, M.D., former executive director and CEO of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, on behalf of the CFPC;
- an owl figure and accompanying note that reads simply "Wisdom" given to him by Graham and his wife Jane Henney, M.D., to mark the beginning of Henley's tenure as head of the organization; and
- an array of military challenge coins from members of the Academy's Uniformed Services chapter, including from a number of FPs who have served as White House physicians.
Three Academy EVPs -- past, present and future -- gather for a celebratory photo during an official portrait unveiling. They are, from left, Robert Graham, M.D. (1985-2000); Douglas Henley, M.D. (2000-2020); and Shawn Martin, who will succeed Henley as of Aug. 1.
"So that's the history," said Henley, visibly moved by the occasion. "I'm proud to be on the wall."
Graham built on that sentiment in his comments, recalling that "When you first took over your responsibilities, I remember you and I standing in this room looking at the wall, and saying, you know -- there's a place for you there."
Likening himself to an old coach sitting on the sidelines for the past 20 years -- "you don't know many of the players anymore, but some of the plays are familiar" -- Graham applauded the Academy's continuing success, growing public policy impact and ongoing commitment to members during Henley's tenure.
Former AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., of Overland Park, Kan., was next to offer congratulations and best wishes, noting his appreciation for Henley's welcoming guidance since Munger joined the AAFP Board in 2013. "You are going to be a tough act to follow," he said, "but more importantly, I've got a friend for life."
As for Martin, he began his comments by crediting Henley for his decision to seek a role with the organization. "I came to the Academy in large part because of Doug Henley," he said.
Since joining the AAFP's executive team, "I have learned a lot, I've been personally inspired," said Martin, adding his thanks for Henley's support in dealing with various challenges during those eight years: "He never asked too many questions; he never said too much.
"He's been an incredible mentor for me along the way," Martin said.
"I don't think I can put into spoken words the impact you've had on people, but more importantly, the impact you've had on America and our health care system.
"So, congratulations -- it's a retirement well earned."