This year the College of Delegates (COD) takes place in the comforts of or own homes due to the COVID pandemic. Initially scheduled to take place in the lovely city of Chicago, AAFP leadership had to press hard to transition to an online meeting. There were a few glitches but nothing really more than would be expected with hundreds of opinionated physicians trying to get a word in on the proposed resolutions.   

First ever virtual Congress of Delegates! Dr. Jessie Spencer and his furry assistant logged in from Richfield, Utah.

Today we met in Reference Committees to discuss proposed resolutions. As a primer on the process, state chapters propose resolutions to be discussed at the COD. These resolutions are then discussed at Reference Committees and delegates are able to speak in favor or in opposition. Not all delegates are present at every Reference Committee meeting. There is a group of diverse physicians who are chosen to sit on each Reference Committee (our own Dr. Sarah Woolsey is a committee member this year for Practice Enhancement) who listen to the testimony and meet after the breakout sessions to ultimately make recommendations that will be later presented to entire COD next week.  There is usually further discussion and debate with the full COD on the Reference Committee recommendations and a vote is taken on each resolution. These resolutions then direct the AAFP moving forward.

Two committees met today and discussed resolutions that fell into two broad categories: Health of Public & Science and Practice Enhancement.  There were several hot topics discussed and passionate family medicine physicians debated important topics and how to best address these in the AAFP. Topics included climate health, race-based medicine, telehealth services, gender-affirming treatments, firearm safety, adverse childhood experience prevention, e-scribing and others. Despite differing opinions,
delegates remained respectful in conversation and it is obvious that this group really does focus on what is best for patients and what things can be done to help family medicine physicians provide best care for our communities. It is really inspiring to see the passion, even if doing so virtually!

Our Utah Chapter this year was able to bring a resolution to the COD that was presented in the Practice Enhancement Reference Committee. The resolution asks that the AAFP help physicians and pharmacies implement e-cancelation processes to improve patient safety when a medication is discontinued, decrease administrative burden often seen with prescription changes, and decrease costs associated with refilling of medications that were meant to be discontinued. As chance would have it, the internet in my home went down right when it was time for me to present the resolution and our other Utah delegates were not able to fill in as they were busy with other responsibilities. It made for a few anxious moments as I tried refreshing several times, yelled at the kids a bit, ran downstairs to unplug and plug the internet. Gratefully, the Reference Committee was able to stall a bit while I got things pulled back up. Our resolution was certainly one of the less divisive resolutions this year and seemed to get good support from delegates. We shall see what the Reference Committee does with this and what will be presented next week to the full COD. We are very proud to be a presenting a resolution this year and hope to gain a reputation as an engaged chapter at the COD! We appreciate your comments and feedback that helped to guide us during these Reference Committee meetings and will certainly direct us as the COD continues.

It is great to be a part of the Utah delegation to the first ever virtual COD.  I have loved the opportunity to hear and gather with family medicine physicians from across the country looking to improve our communities.  It is reaffirming to me that my choice to become a family medicine physician is one of the best decisions I could have made. I’m proud to be a part of this group and I hope you all get the chance to slow down, step back and realize the amazing work you are all doing on the frontlines!

Jessie Spencer, MD