Let the Congress of Delegates begin! It is so good to get things started in beautiful (and beautifully muggy) Orlando and to be here with our fellow highly engaged and innovative Family Medicine physicians from all over the country. Our Utah Academy has five representatives here. Our two physician delegates this year are Nikki Clark and Kyle Jones. Pete Sundwall and I are alternate delegates. We are here with our program director, Maggie Mitchell, who has done a great job organizing and preparing us for the week.
The main event of the first day of Congress is the Town Hall meeting. The AAFP leaders give short speeches followed by an open forum Q & A session. It was great to see the passion that delegates from the entire country bring for discussion. There were many who expressed concerns about the current substance use issues, particularly opioid abuse, happening in the country. The general sentiment was that we need to be a driving force for change, but also should not accept being scapegoats for causing the problem.
There was a long discussion on physician wellness and prevention of burnout. The AAFP certainly seems to be on the forefront of leading change to help Family Physicians survive in an ever-changing, emotionally and physically draining profession. Keeping physicians well and happy in their work has been deemed a “top priority” by our current AAFP president. Healthy discussion was had on payment reform, particularly the changes related to Medicare payment and MACRA requirements. The Academy will be providing support and education to help us understand and prepare for these changes. Many delegates spoke about the importance of studying and acting on social determinants of health and how we as Family Physicians are in prime position to lead on this. Watching delegate physicians speak on their passions and express ideas that will improve patient care and hopefully decrease barriers in our practices is truly inspiring. There was obvious unity in our mission and it made me more proud to call myself a family doctor. It was a night that seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the meetings for the week.
We were also able to have dinner with representatives from our region at the Western States Forum. Delegates, alternates, and chapter staff from the 10 most western states gathered to network and share stories of successes and challenges, many of which we share. Our delegation sat with the fine physicians from Colorado and very much enjoyed their company. It is worth noting that we have great AAFP leadership representation from the western states with four current board members. We have one physician from the region running for AAFP President this year and potentially two candidates next year for the same office. A challenge was made to keep the leadership pipeline from the region flowing. It will be great when our state can be represented nationally and we should be thinking of this as a state academy.
It is great to be here to see how policy is made in the AAFP and to spend time with Family Physicians working together to navigate through the barricades that get in the way of us providing care to our patients.
Jesse Spencer, MD