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Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(7):816

What would someone who read the first issue of GP (as AFP was originally called) think of AFP today? I'm sure no one imagined accessing AFP content on the Internet of the future, or receiving the table of contents in an e-mail. The past six decades have been ones of change for the Academy and for AFP, and the change is only accelerating. The cover of this issue shows how the appearance of the journal has changed over the years, but what is most important are the changes that go beyond the physical appearance. As Jay Siwek, MD, editor of AFP, notes in his editorial (page 842), we envision many enhancements and improvements for AFP in the next decade, many of which focus on accessibility.

To envision the future, it serves us well to reflect on the past. Below are just a few of the interesting highlights of the past 60 years.

1947 — The American Academy of General Practice was founded, and Mac Cahal was hired as the executive director. Mr. Cahal had the foresight to assemble a journal staff who developed a publication dedicated to providing practical clinical information that general practitioners could use every day.

1950 — The first issue of GP was published on April 1, with F. Kenneth Albrecht, MD, as its first editor. It included some departments you see today (e.g., Letters, Editorials) and feature articles such as “The Problem of Obscure Fever,” “Troubles in the Abdomen and Thorax,” and “The Doctor's Bag—What Should Be in It.” Unfortunately, Dr. Albrecht passed away before the issue was printed. He was succeeded as editor by Walter C. Alvarez, MD, a renowned physician from the Mayo Clinic.

1951 to 1962 — Hugh Hussey, MD, dean of the medical school at Georgetown University, assumed the role of editor in 1951 and, after his departure in 1959, became a respected editor of JAMA. Arthur DeGraff, MD, a cardiologist and professor of therapeutics at New York University, was editor of GP until 1962, when John C. Rose, MD, became editor. Dr. Rose, who also served as dean of the medical school at Georgetown University, had been associate medical editor since 1955.

December 1970 — After being known as GP, and for a short time, American Family Physician/GP, the journal was published as American Family Physician. By this time, publishing technology had advanced allowing AFP to include a few four-color advertisements and photographs. Several AFP departments published at this time are still published 40 years later (e.g., Newsletter [now called AAFP News Now: AFP Edition] and Tips from other Journals). During the 1970s, AAFP members received a special version of AFP containing an “Academy News” insert that included items of interest to members and state chapter executive staff. Continuing education was known as “postgraduate study credit”; the “programmed instruction course” in this issue was on the management of diabetes. Obtaining credit involved answering 39 questions based on the article.

1988 — Jay Siwek, MD, assumed the role of editor upon the retirement of Dr. Rose. Dr. Siwek had joined the AFP staff as associate editor in 1980. In the 1980s, AFP was still published monthly, and the growth in advertising in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted in some huge issues, including one of more than 500 pages. Reader feedback indicated that each issue was simply too much to read. This ultimately led to increasing the frequency of AFP to 16 issues per year in 1993, 20 issues per year in 1998, and eventually 24 issues per year in 2000.

1997 — Starting in late 1997, AFP was posted online at the same time each issue was printed. Since then, online readership has steadily grown, though most people still prefer to read full articles in print. Archives dating back to 1998 are still maintained on the Web site.

2010 — We expect to make more online features available in the near future—features no one could have imagined 60 years ago. With the AFP Web site newly rebuilt on a base of XML, we'll be able to create, test, and launch new features more quickly than in the past.

This brief overview of AFP's evolution during the past six decades does not begin to include the many people involved or every change in the journal. While many features have changed or been added, some remain the same, such as continuing medical education. Most important, while the faces and names have changed over time, the medical and professional editors' dedication to providing up-to-date, practical clinical information that family physicians can use every day will never change.

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