Febuary 10, 2022, 4:22 p.m. News Staff — The 2021 Congress of Delegates came together virtually this month to take action on resolutions that were discussed in virtual reference committees, including adoption of two proposals that came before the Reference Committee on Cross-topical issues: a substitute resolution directing the Academy to support physician pipeline programs and a resolution that urged the AAFP to take new steps to address medical student debt.
The in-person 2021 Congress transitioned to two virtual sessions, one to select officers and directors in September and a second session that considered reports from reference committees that met virtually Jan. 22-23. Members were able to testify on resolutions assigned to those committees, both in prewritten form and live during the virtual hearings. Delegates extracted certain items from the reports for later discussion, and those not extracted were deemed to have been acted upon by the Congress through unanimous consent on Feb. 4.
Of measures brought before the Reference Committee on Cross-Topical Issues, delegates adopted a substitute resolution that urged the AAFP to examine existing pipeline programs, including its own, that recruit students from populations historically underrepresented in medicine and to establish policy to guide the Academy’s support for such programs.
An original, broader resolution had called for the Academy to create a directory of existing pipeline programs and to survey students about such programs to identify best practices. However, the Morehouse School of Medicine already has an initiative to evaluate science, technology, engineerig and mathematics pipeline programs and identify best practices. Thus, the reference committee suggested new language to allow the AAFP “flexibility to achieve the outcome of supporting successful pipeline programs and improving its own.”
It is projected that the United States will face a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034 The AAFP launched a new pipeline program in 2021 with HOSA Future Health Professionals, a U.S. Department of Education-recognized Career and Technical Student Organization that promotes career opportunities in health care to middle school, high school and college students. Participants will learn about family medicine with resources provided by the Academy. Students also will have the opportunity to interview AAFP active and medical student members about their career paths. Twelve constituent chapters are working with the AAFP to pilot the program in their states.
Delegates adopted a resolution that called for the Academy to develop model legislation regarding federal medical student loan forgiveness for family physicians and other primary care physicians, advocate for existing legislation that addresses loan forgiveness, and work collaboratively with other primary care physician organizations to address the issue.
The reference committee heard testimony in support of the resolution from members who were concerned that large debts could make students less likely to choose family medicine, and loan repayment can be difficult for those practicing in rural and urban underserved communities, which negatively impacts the primary care workforce in those communities.
The reference committee noted that the AAFP already has existing policy regarding student debt as well as a track record of advocacy on this issue. However, the committee said in its report that it supported asking the AAFP “to take those efforts further to develop and leverage model legislation.”
More than three-fourths of medical school graduates have educational debt. The average medical school debt is nearly $216,000, excluding undergraduate and other educational debt. The average medical school graduate owes more than $240,000 in total student debt
Watch AAFP News for details of other actions that delegates took based on issues considered by reference committees focused on advocacy, health of the public and science, organization and finance, and practice enhancement.