Reflections on a year as president

Tags: texas family physician, president's letter, kumar, reflection

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

It has been truly a privilege and an honor to serve as your president. This year was fast-paced, exciting, and full of accomplishments. It was a great year and I have many wonderful people to thank for it.

First, I would like to thank my wife, Elaine, and my children, Priya and Nikhil, for their love and affection, patience and understanding, and for their support without which I would not have been able to take up the responsibilities of this office.

Next, I would like to thank Dr. Carlos Jaén, chair of the UTHSCSA Department of Family Medicine, for his constant support, guidance, and encouragement. I also want thank my colleagues, Drs. Tysinger, Gillard, Moscrip, Akram, Lantz, and Dellalo, for their help and support. I would like to thank my clinic staff and the staff in the medical school—the best people in the world—who help me every day.

Finally, I would like to thank the Academy staff for their tremendous support. Tom Banning and Kathy McCarthy, for the times you traveled with me, and for your constant support and friendship, I thank you. To the entire academy staff, I could not have done it without you.

As I said above, this year has been very exciting. We have accomplished many victories and faced many challenges. At the beginning of my year as president I made it a priority to address the declining interest in family medicine and vowed to visit all of the Texas medical schools and as many of the family medicine residency programs as was possible. My purpose at the medical schools was to explain to students who we are and what we do as family physicians. Academy staff members Tom and Kathy joined me in this endeavor. At the residency programs, I was joined by fellow officers Drs. Melissa Gerdes, I. L. Balkcom, and Troy Fiesinger. We talked with residents and explained to them what we, the Academy, do for our members, our profession, and our patients.

I am delighted to tell you that both groups were extremely receptive to our message. The medical students were very interested in what family physicians do. They loved the fact that we are patient-centered and offer continuity of care, and that our specialty is based on relationships.

The residents were astounded at the Academy’s work on their behalf advocating for graduate medical education and workforce issues, providing high-quality education, and providing practice management tools that help family physicians in the business of medicine.

Though we experienced great success during these road trips, we must continue to enlighten the next generation of physicians. We want to show students that our profession is great and it is worthwhile to be a part of, and we need to teach the residents the benefits of involvement in the Academy.

TAFP has also played a role in reaching out to students and residents and those involved in their education. TAFP facilitated two meetings of the Texas family medicine department chairs to share ideas about increasing student interest, in July 2009 during Annual Session in Arlington and in March 2010 during Interim Session in Austin. To encourage activities of the Family Medicine Interest Groups at the medical schools, TAFP increased funding for FMIG activities in each school. Effective June 2010, AAFP and TAFP agreed to cover the cost of membership dues for medical students, making it easier for them to get involved with the Academy now so they can continue in the future, and will also discount a new physician’s dues during their first year of practice.

As you may remember from my inaugural presidential address in Arlington, I challenged all TAFP members to become mentors to the next generation of physicians, beginning as early as high school and continuing through medical school and residency. I was pleased with the number of doctors who took time out of their busy schedules to invest in the longevity of our profession by teaching young students and young professionals about what we do as family doctors and why our profession is so rewarding and important.

Encouraging their involvement in the Academy must continue. The bottom line is that as a member of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, it is crucial for all of us to put forth every effort in the years to come in ensuring the growth and longevity of our specialty. We must do this through student education, continually talking about what we do as family doctors and why we do it. We must continue to share what we are doing with residents who are preparing to enter the world of medicine, and promote membership in the Academy to keep them engaged. We must push for an increase in Academy membership particularly among new physicians.

During this year of change and debate, I learned that we may have differences of opinion, but we are not different. We are all family physicians and we are one family. We care for one another, we care for our specialty and we are all interested in the same goal of caring for our patients, our communities, and our country. We should all remember that debate is healthy in a democratic process to resolve our differences.

As immediate past president, I pledge my support to Dr. Gerdes, our new president, and I will continue to take an active role in building the primary care workforce. I encourage all of you to do the same.

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