Invest in students, residents to keep specialty strong

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From the inaugural address of TAFP’s new president

By Kaparaboyna Ashok Kumar, M.D., F.R.C.S.
TAFP President, 2009-2010

It is a great honor and privilege to serve as your president. I thank every one of you for placing your confidence in me and I will work sincerely and tirelessly to protect the interests of our members and patients.

As I begin my term as president, I would like to thank some very special people. I thank my family, especially my wife Elaine, for their love, understanding, patience and support, without which I would not be able to take up these responsibilities.

I thank all of the TAFP and AAFP leaders. To my fellow officers, members of the Board of Directors, comm­­ittees, comm­issions, task forces and sections, I thank you for your hard work and tremendous volunteer efforts to make TAFP a value to patients and doctors throughout this state. A special thanks also goes out to the TAFP staff.

I must also thank my boss, Dr. Carlos Jaén, the chairman of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, for his constant support, guidance and encouragement.

Most of all, a great thanks to all of the TAFP members. You are the face of this organization—the bridge between our organization and the patient. Your personal commitment to improve patient care is highly commendable and most appreciated. TAFP would not exist without your dedication, volunteer efforts and commitment to providing quality patient care in this state.

As family physicians, we soothe our patients’ physical and emotional pain. We take time with our patients to help them on a spiritual basis. We treat the total person, and practice holistic medicine with due care, empathy and compassion. We hold the hand of a troubled patient and help someone near the end of his or her life. We reassure a pregnant mother who is weary from life’s stresses. We help those suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes to improve their lives and even eliminate the illness in some cases. We provide the trust and understanding that so many people seek from their doctors and health care providers.

I know we do these things, because I have seen these and many other wonderful things accomplished over my 25 years of practicing medicine.

I became involved in the Academy in 1997 when I decided to attend the Annual Leadership Forum and National Conference on Special Constituencies. The energizing experience I got from these conferences brought me back to the Academy many more times. In 2001, I was elected as the first delegate from the IMG section and had the opportunity to meet other people from the Texas delegation who encouraged me to get involved in the Texas Academy.

I became the first IMG member of the board of directors and then chair of the Section on Special Constituencies. I became a member of the Executive Committee and about six years ago was nominated to be an officer.

I had the privilege of serving with visionary leaders under whose stewardship TAFP flourished. We grew our outstanding CME programs, we strengthened our financial reserves and we bought a new building. At the same time TAFP became more aggressively engaged in addressing more pressing advocacy, payment and practice management needs of our members.

Our Academy has accomplished a lot during my short time as an officer. We passed comprehensive tort reform, we increased Medicaid payment rates, we restructured the Texas physician education loan repayment program to provide up to $160,000 in loan forgiveness for family physicians and we’ve passed many groundbreaking managed care reforms—including a bill this session sponsored by my good friend Rep. José Menéndez from San Antonio that requires health plans to provide insurance information such as services covered, co-pays and deductibles, and patients’ out-of-pocket expense, all at the time of service.

While we’ve achieved many important victories, much is left to do.

As president of TAFP, I want to carry on the strong traditions of leadership and successes of my predecessors. I am committed to ensuring our profession receives the respect, compensation and overall improvements that you desire and our patients deserve.

During my term as president, I want to increase the number of medical students choosing to enter family medicine. This is not just because we love our specialty, but it is good for the health of the country. We must invest our Academy’s time and resources, along with our members’ personal efforts to help students and residents see the rewards of becoming a family physician.

I challenge each of you to join me in this effort—become an ambassador for family medicine. I am sure many of you have had mentors or have been inspired by someone in your life. Provide the same kind of inspiration to young people in your community. Let these fresh young minds see what you do every day. Let them see what you value in your discussions with your patients. Let them learn about the holistic medicine we practice. Talk to them about what is most gratifying in a doctor-patient relationship, and let them experience the compassion you show in each and every visit.

I will make it my goal to visit every medical school in Texas to talk with the students about the value of family medicine. I will encourage them to join their Family Medicine Interest Group.

I will visit our family medicine residency programs to provide information about what the Academy is doing for them and urge them to continue their membership in TAFP. These are the people who are going to take over the responsibilities of our profession and our Academy. I will challenge them to be the best role models to the medical students they come in contact with.

Secondly, I will strive to increase the membership in the TAFP and AAFP. I want to see every graduating family medicine resident join the Academy. Family physicians are a very diverse group and it is important that our membership reflects that diversity. I will reach out to our minority physicians and international medical graduates and encourage their involvement with our Academy.

Third, we must improve our practice viability. Primary care physicians are the first line of contact in medical care in most cases. We treat a wide range of medical conditions at the same visit, and as a result we work long hours. Payment must improve to meet these demands put upon us and to make our salary base more enticing to medical students.

We must also constantly seek ways to improve our practices and give the best care to our patients. We must seek to cut down patient wait times and find ways to become more accessible, so our patients can see us whenever they need us. We must continually improve the quality of care we deliver by adapting quality improvement projects. We need to seek innovative ways to eliminate medical errors. We need to use technology to help us achieve all of these goals, yet we must not allow the computer screen to interfere with us listening to our patients.

We have many things to accomplish during my term as president. I am up for the challenge and look forward to working with each one of you. I believe that we are all placed on this earth at specific times to accomplish specific things. Everyone within this organization has been ordained with a specific duty. I challenge and urge you to proceed with your calling. Step in where doors are opened and make as many positive changes as you can in the lives of the people placed in your path.


Kaparaboyna Ashok Kumar, M.D., F.R.C.S.

Dr. Kumar is an international medical graduate of Osmania Medical College. He completed a surgical residency at St. James’ University Hospital, England, and a family medicine residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. Dr. Kumar completed a fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons, and his special interests include surgical procedures, endoscopy and cancer screening. He is currently on faculty as the director of medical student education at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Dr. Kumar is actively involved in TAFP and AAFP. He was recently appointed to chair AAFP’s Commission on Membership and Member Services, of which he has been a member for the past four years. He previously served a one-year term as chair of the Chapter Relations Sub-committee, and was a member of the Committee on Special Constituencies, a group representing the concerns of minority, women, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender physicians, new physicians and international medical graduates, and was elected the first delegate for IMGs to the AAFP Congress of Delegates.

Within TAFP, Dr. Kumar chaired the Finance Committee, and was the first special constituency representative on the TAFP Executive Committee and the TAFP Board of Directors.

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