April 21, 2022, 9:59 a.m. News Staff — In October 2021 the AAFP and the National Hispanic Medical Association agreed to collaborate on advancing health equity and diversity with efforts that included establishing a Council of Family Medicine to develop family medicine-focused programs and networking opportunities.
The NHMA has selected as the council’s chair and chair-elect, respectively, Francis Guerra-Bauman, M.D., a second-year resident and chief resident in the Department of Family Medicine at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, Penn., and Sara Guevara, M.D., a faculty attending physician at the Glen Cove Hospital Family Medicine residency program at Northwell Health in Glen Cove, N.Y., and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Hofstra School of Medicine in Hempstead, N.Y.
While the council is seeking additional family physicians before it can officially begin business, both Guerra-Bauman and Guevara are optimistic about the potential impact it can have for the AAFP, the NHMA and the specialty of family medicine. As the council takes shape, AAFP News spoke with the chair and chair-elect to learn about their roles and what they would like to see the council accomplish.
AAFP News: What interested you initially in becoming a physician, and why did you choose family medicine?
Francis Guerra-Bauman, M.D.: I practiced medicine in my homeland of Panama before relocating to the United States. During my junior years I enjoyed volunteering in underserved areas of rural Panama and being involved in the direct medical care of patients in different age groups and the relationships that develop between a physician and their patients. When I relocated to the United States, I continued volunteering in a free clinic near our home. The experiences there showed me I was able to translate my experience as an attending physician in Latin America to a family medicine practice that assisted uninsured patients, many of whom were of Latino heritage and backgrounds. It was evident to me that there is a huge need in the U.S. for Spanish-speaking primary care physicians who not only speak the language but understand the culture. As a family physician, I have had the opportunity to be in the position to help the most people possible, to take ownership of the patients and “do it all,” which helped me hone my clinical skills and grow my clinical judgement while I assisted the community, especially the Latino members of the community.
Sara Guevara, M.D.: From a young age, I was determined to become a physician who would provide the best medical care in a humanistic way as I began my experience in the clinical setting as a volunteer and interpreter. During my years as a medical interpreter, I observed the value of empathy, effective communication and cultural humility in the patient-physician relationship. This inspired my interactions as I built rapport and trust with my own patients. I perceived the importance of treating each patient holistically, including addressing mental health and psychosocial needs, and thus found my calling with family medicine.
AAFP News: What was your reaction when you heard that the NHMA was partnering with the AAFP on the NHMA Council of Family Medicine? Why did you apply?
Guevara: I was immediately inspired to join and contribute to the NHMA Council of Family Medicine because it is a truly unique opportunity to facilitate the integration and collaboration of these two amazing and very supportive networks. I believe this partnership will greatly empower and enrich its members and effectively help improve and transform the quality of health care for one of the largest underserved populations. My experiences with AAFP and NHMA have greatly shaped and enhanced my career path, and they have granted me the networking and mentoring opportunities that have motivated me to pursue leadership and advocacy in medicine.
Guerra-Bauman: This was such fantastic news to hear! Both organizations support initiatives that promote and support a workforce that reflects the diversity and culture of the communities where we family physicians served, including Latinos. Being a resident physician member in both the AAFP and NHMA has provided professional opportunities that lead me to reflect on the responsibility we have as physicians. The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us that the vulnerable and marginalized populations are often hit the hardest. Family physicians are natural leaders; we can adapt resources to reach out and advocate for our communities. I decided to apply because I want to work and learn from leaders in medical organizations that can help to make a difference for patients, while empowering more representation from my current fellow Latino family medicine residents, as well as those who will follow.
AAFP News: What was the application process like to become a member of the council?
Guerra-Bauman: Personally, I felt it was a time to reflect on all the responsibilities that creating this council will represent. It was a very nice surprise to receive the news about the selection. I am very happy and honored and looking forward to work and learn from Dr. Guevara.
Guevara: The NHMA and AAFP were very supportive during the application process and approachable for any questions along the way. The prospect of being a part of the NHMA Council of Family Medicine and helping bridge and connect these groups of amazing physicians was both inspiring and exciting. It will be an honor to serve on the council alongside other great physician leaders like Dr. Guerra-Bauman.
AAFP News: What do you and the NHMA Council of Family Medicine hope to accomplish for the AAFP, the NHMA and the specialty?
Guevara: By nurturing the collaboration between the AAFP and the NHMA, we can successfully build and strengthen connections between passionate AAFP and NHMA members, leaders and advocates with the goal of promoting health equity and expanding community-oriented initiatives. Group members will have a forum to share best practices, for strategic planning, and to communicate about upcoming NHMA campaigns, AAFP initiatives and other career advancing and mentoring opportunities.
Guerra-Bauman: We’re looking to establish the mechanism and organization that can help us to align AAFP and NHMA objectives of increasing diversity and representation of Latinos in family medicine. Some of our objectives are to promote medicine as a career option for students from disadvantaged communities, as well as to engage the community and identify opportunities to improve public health and health equity.
AAFP News: What do you hope to achieve through your leadership roles on the council?
Guerra-Bauman: I’ve been honored to work and learn from individuals with different personalities, backgrounds and beliefs who share the same goal of caring for their communities while providing volunteerism, guidance and leadership. I am looking forward to continuing that learning process from the AAFP and NHMA leadership teams. Writing resolutions, attending meetings, listening to colleagues’ perspectives and creating policies are valuable experiences that will expand my capacity to help Latino physicians and communities.
Guevara: My personal and professional experiences have called me into action to address the need for community-partnered interventions, primary care practice improvement and policy change. My experience with clinical and community-based research and community health has greatly impacted my practice of medicine, and it has granted me the opportunity to analyze health equity solutions through a different lens.
My goal as part of the team will be to promote and build connections for members, who are passionate about advocacy, research and health policy to unique opportunities made available with the AAFP and the NHMA. Additionally, my goal will be to facilitate connections for AAFP and NHMA members to helpful resources, workshops, seminars and networks to empower providers to have the tools and training to advocate for health equity and the Hispanic and Latinx community.
AAFP News: What would you share with AAFP or NHMA members who might be interested in joining the council?
Guevara: If you are interested in learning more and exploring other ways to contribute to health equity solutions and collaborating with other passionate physician leaders, then you should reach out and join us! It will be a great opportunity for networking, mentoring, career development and other training opportunities to grow as a physician leader and advocate.
Guerra-Bauman: We family physicians are privileged to provide care across the spectrum, the unique opportunity to advocate for patients of all ages and mitigate their challenges. Join the NHMA Council of Family Medicine and help us to collaborate with community leaders and policy makers to make a positive change in our communities. Please contact Nancy Brighindi or Danielle Jones for more information.