Guest Editorial

Rural Physicians Don't Have to Go it Alone

January 04, 2013 02:55 pm Jen Brull, M.D.

Rural physicians account for less than 20 percent of the AAFP's active membership, and that percentage is gradually shrinking. The trend in our membership is toward employed positions in urban areas. And although more than 11,000 family physicians are practicing in small towns, farming communities and other out-of-the-way places like Plainville, Kan., it's easy to feel isolated when you are the only physician -- or one of the few -- in town. It also can leave small-town docs feeling like we don't have a voice in what the Academy is doing on behalf of family physicians.

[Jen Brull, MD]

Jen Brull, M.D.

I have been fortunate to serve as a delegate to the AAFP's Congress of Delegates, a women's representative to the National Conference of Special Constituencies, and a member of the Commission on Membership and Member Services. That kind of time commitment can be difficult for any physician, especially a solo or small-practice physician who thinks he or she can't get away.

So who will be our voice?

A few years ago, the Congress of Delegates created a Working Group on Rural Health (Members Only). The idea was to ask one rural physician from six of the Academy's commissions to serve on the working group. As issues arise in any of these commissions, questions or ideas that might affect rural practices can be taken back to the working group for further consideration.

We have an excellent group with a noble purpose. The problem, however, is that few Academy members know the working group exists, and that means we sometimes don't have much to talk about.

Every person reading this has, at one time or another, seen a "help wanted" sign in a window. Consider this message a sign that help is available.

Maybe you have a problem with privileging, credentialing or access to specialists. Tell us your problem. Let us be your voice. We can carry your concerns to the heart of the AAFP. We can understand the unique perspective of the rural family physician and represent you at the commission level.

In addition to me, the members of the Working Group on Rural Health are

  • Ronald Blum, M.D., of Patten Maine, from the Commission on Continuing Education;
  • Domenic Casablanca, M.D., of Shelton, Conn., from the Commission on Continuing Professional Development;
  • Jason Dees, D.O., of Jackson, Miss., from the Commission on Governmental Advocacy;
  • Howard McMahan, M.D., of Ocilla, Ga., from the Commission on Quality and Practice; and
  • Robert Rich Jr., M.D., of Bladenboro, N.C., from the Commission on Health of the Public and Science.

We monitor topics on the Academy's rural health listserv, which you can join (Members Only) just by signing up, as well as the rural medicine community on AAFP Connection, the Academy's secure, members-only website.

You can contact me via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or even snail mail -- I'm in the membership directory (Members Only) -- if that's easier. You also can reach out to Debra Hurst, the AAFP staff member who works with the working group.

We're here, and we're ready to help.

Jen Brull, M.D., of Plainville, Kan., is a member of the AAFP's Commission on Membership and Member Services and is the convener of the Working Group on Rural Health.