Communications: Advocacy News

Report from the 2017 Congress of Delegates

Friday, September 22, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: David Hutchinson, MD
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I write from San Antonio, Texas, as we close the 2017 AAFP Congress of Delegates (COD).

This is my final year as a delegate for you from the MAFP, and I want to THANK YOU once again for the opportunity to be here to represent family physician concerns and patient needs at our national organization’s legislative level. 

Part of the pleasure of being here is in the company, of course. Your Minnesota delegation – Julie Anderson (St. Cloud), Daron Gersch (Albany), Dania Kamp (Moose Lake), Glenn Nemec (Monticello), Dave Bucher and Renee Crichlow (TC metro), AAFP board member Lynne Lillie, and our MAFP staff (Maria, Tara, Missy) – are dear, gifted, talented, energizing individuals. Two terrific resident and student members were also in attendance, Lauren Williams and Paul Stadem, respectively, who will be caring for us after we’re done. They all demonstrate clearly that you are exquisitely well represented within the AAFP and MAFP for years to come.

This year at the COD we had the uncommon task of promoting Lynne Lillie, MD, FAAFP in our campaign for her to become AAFP president-elect, as she finishes her three-year term on the AAF Board of Directors. Dr. Lillie worked extremely hard for us in this pursuit. Her preparation, her presence at meet-and-greet sessions, her presentation, her speech to the Congress, and her formal Q&A performance were exemplary. So, too, were the efforts of her many family members who came to help with hospitality on her behalf, many other Minnesota members, and especially of our MAFP staff, who have been working on this campaign for months.

Dr. Lillie has been an absolutely amazing representative for family medicine and our patients, at many levels of the AAFP for decades. We were not successful, sadly, at helping to achieve her election, but it was an exciting ride. The Congress had multiple gifted candidates to choose from. John Cullen, MD, from Alaska, will be a great AAFP president in 2018.

This week we considered/debated resolutions about invigorating issues such as:

  • Organizational declaration of health care as a right, not privilege
  • Protection of telemedicine maternity care abilities by providers
  • The increasing member interest in Single Payer health systems
  • Initiatives for burnout prevention
  • Advocacy for directed spending for post-grad med education to incent primary care training
  • Advocacy for changes to Maintenance of Certification
  • Developing a feature searchability function for the residency program directory
  • Physician aid-in-dying/assisted-suicide terminology promotion
  • Protection of incarcerated patient’s rights
  • Tobacco sales restrictions to minors in the military [resolution brought forward by the MAFP]
  • Health Impact Assessments as potential requirements for commercial and public works projects. [resolution brought forward by the MAFP]
  • Increasing member diversity
  • Support for family physicians as leaders in employed health systems [resolution brought forward by the MAFP]
  • Advocacy for alteration of the Medicare ‘3-midnight’ rule
  • Stabilization of drug pricing
  • Limitations to Prior Authorization
  • Focus on consideration of ‘health’ in all policies
  • Study of violence in the healthcare workplace, and support for those who experience it
  • Member education in the field of Integrative Medicine
  • Systems to refine practice and outcome metrics
  • Reduction in administrative burdens 

It was a week of inspiration and substance. Being surrounded for four days by strong, intellectual idealists from around the country loosens one’s sense of the possible. It is restoring to be here, among our own members, and to strive for better together. Annually, after engaging here, I am amazed at how quickly I realize that group advocacy is medicine for the soul of the advocate.  I realize, too, how silly it is that I must discover this over and over, and how in the course of the sprint and grind that can be our daily and weekly work lives, I forget to take this medicine.    

If you long to believe that… is possible for you to spend most of your work energy in the service of clinical encounters and relationship-building could spend less of your work time (and free time) navigating administrative BS
...your patients can have the affordable and sensible care and health system that they deserve and that we deserve to offer them can be provided better resources and remuneration for your labor and expertise
...politicians, society, and the house of medicine will recognize the primacy of family medicine as the cure for an ailing health system,
...our outcomes can be measured meaningfully instead of expediently
...the MD degree and your family medicine specialty certification have unique and outstanding value
...there can be justice in medicine for patients and for primary care

…then consider investing pointedly in ADVOCACY efforts. 

Advocacy is empowering, affirming of our values, and creates change. Many of us aren’t particularly good at this, myself included. Stating our beliefs and desires isn’t easy in a crowd where other individuals have their own interests. Drawing attention to ourselves isn’t necessarily our first nature. Willingly engaging in ways that could stimulate contrary reaction or conflict isn’t in the first nature of most Minnesotans. 

In family medicine, we’ve learned to be nicer than this, to be unobtrusive. For the future of medicine in America, for our patients, for our families, for our health, we need to be courageously obtrusive. I believe that what we as family physicians want for health care is as unselfish as any agenda in medicine. 

What we want support for offering is what creates contentment for patients, saves costs, leads to better overall health outcomes, and preserves providers. We know this, and we’re obliged to continue to say so.  I also believe that family physicians are as well suited to this advocacy task as ANYONE in medicine. We navigate conflict gracefully, we are inclusive, we listen, we advocate from a noble position.

This is me, advocating for you, to advocate for us. Please convince yourselves to attend your health system staff meetings, lead your departments, and increase your involvement with your professional member associations, especially the MMA and MAFP, toward advocacy (#healing).
Carry the flag.

Become delegates, committee members, board members, officers.

The return to you will be greater than your investment.

All of us in the Minnesota delegation recognize all of you in Minnesota family medicine as our family, not just as constituents; we recognize you as the source of our moral and communal support, not just our electoral support.  We need your participation, and your feedback. I cheer for your fulfillment as family physicians, and I cheer for you inspiration, your boldness, to make a noise for family medicine.  

I have many heroes, and you are highest among them.

Adios, from San Antonio.

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