AAFP Congress of Delegates Update #2

by UAFP Delegate, Jordan R. Roberts, MD

Because of COVID-19, for the previous two Congress of Delegates there were special sessions where reference committees heard resolutions and submitted their recommendations via consent calendars, but no general debate was heard. This year, in addition to debating resolutions submitted for this congress, we heard debate on extracted resolutions from last year as well which has led to lengthy and passionate discussions.

Utah extracted one item from the consent calendar for further discussion, which had not been accepted by the Rules Committee, as we believed the resolution was essentially different from existing policy (protections for patients who travel interstate for medical care and the physicians who provide information to those patients), but unfortunately the motion to lift the resolution for general debate did not pass (a 2/3 majority was needed and we were 1 vote short!); however, we were not discouraged, and instead approached our colleagues from New York who had authored a similar resolution, to suggest a friendly amendment that would address our concerns and they agreed. 

As this year marks the 75th anniversary of the academy, the Speaker took liberty to read some items from previous congress sessions where the issues sounded very similar to those we are still working on and mentioned that we continue to move forward as well as we can. 

Our current president also harkened back to the 1950’s when our academy took root and the circumstances that led to the creation of what would become the AAFP. He compared family physicians to pluripotent stem cells! We were highly sought after during the pandemic to face the unprecedented challenges this major stress to our health system inflicted in many ways. We have done it all; caring for the worst off in our society and the very wealthy equally. He argued that we should spend our energy creating an environment that will support us, so we can do our jobs in the future. 

Another large part of our new normal he spoke to is combating misinformation. Whether about gun safety/violence, vaccines, etc. our patients trust us like family. He made the analogy that we are like lighthouses (or as mariners refer to them, the “lower lights”) that prevent ships from foundering on the rocks during storms when navigating by the stars is not possible. He showed us polling data demonstrating that our lobby is ranked 2nd in the nation in respect on Capitol Hill, 2nd for influence, and that our efforts to lobby were equal among both parties! Of course, we want to be #1. He showed other statistics that medical professionals are 3x more trusted than elected officials and even those with low trust in vaccines still trust their doctors more than Google or social media influencers, and that having a family doctor leads to a 5.5% higher vaccination rate. 

In short, we are the most trusted voice to our patients, even as the tides rise and we become lonely voices we still shine and remain strong and firm in the storm. 

Our delegation then separated for the various reference committee hearings to listen and give testimony on the various resolutions that we had met and agreed upon our basic stances beforehand. Some items addressed in these committees included postpartum care, pivot to electrification of appliances, the health effects of wildfires, neonatal abstinence/withdrawal syndrome, informed consent for gender affirming hormone therapy and the crisis pregnancy centers involved in training residents, to name a few. 

Once we reconvened to the congress, our delegation played a part, along with the student and resident constituency, in overturning the recommendation of the reference committee’s consent agenda not to adopt a resolution which would reinstate the requirement for live CME for membership cycle renewal (as small chapters like ours rely on live CME events as a major source of funding) and this was successful after challenging the Speaker on a parliamentary ambiguity which led to confusion about the outcome of the vote. 

It was a stimulating day and a good taste for what we had in store for the remainder of the congress. In the evening some of our members went out on the town to enjoy some iconic DC fare in “the room where it happens”.