Strong Medicine for Family Medicine:
AAFP National Conference of Special Constituencies
by Jay W. Lee, M.D., M.P.H.
In the spirit of our academy’s new slogan, let me state the case for the AAFP National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC) as strong medicine for family medicine. The 18th Annual NCSC took place from May 1-3, 2008 in Kansas City, where family physicians from across the nation congregated for the AAFP’s premiere policy development event addressing member issues specific to women, minorities, new physicians, international medical graduates, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) members. It is serves also as leadership training ground for tomorrow’s family medicine champions.
This year, I had the honor of participating in NCSC along with Dr. Tahany Habashy, a fellow OC-CAFP board member.
One of the strengths of NCSC is how it inspires to involve family physicians beyond the scope of their individual practices. Whether you practice in a large group or as a solo physician, a policy-laden world exists “upstream” from your clinic that increasingly impinges on your ability to provide the high-quality patient-centered primary care that you were trained to deliver. NCSC provides participants with a safe and friendly learning environment to practice writing policies and arguing for adoption as AAFP policy. As AAFP President Dr. Jim King stated during the meeting, “If you’re not sitting at the table, then you’re on the menu.”
Another strength of NCSC is how it fosters camaraderie and common ground among a diverse pool of family physicians from across the nation. It was fascinating to witness family physicians with disparate practice styles and diverse geography come together on issues important to our specialty and our patients. Even more fascinating was the breadth and depth of potential policy solutions that the synergy of NCSC produced.
Finally, NCSC generates family medicine leadership. Indeed, Dr. Jack Chou, California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) Speaker and Chair for the AAFP Commission on Membership and Member Services, is a NCSC product. Along these lines, two in the California delegation decided that sitting at the table was far more desirable than being on the menu and overcame their fear of public speaking to win competitive elections for AAFP leadership positions: Dr. Farquharson of Watsonville as the AMA-YPS Alternate Delegate and Dr. Jay Lee of Santa Ana as one of six AAFP Special Constituency Alternate Delegates.
As CAFP President Dr. Jeff Luther notes, “NCSC plays several important roles for our state Academy. First, it’s an arena for recruiting and developing family medicine leaders in the state, giving them valuable experience and networking opportunities at the national level. Because it’s held contemporaneously with the Annual Leadership Forum, it’s also a great opportunity for the current leadership to interact with newer leaders in the various constituencies, and to get a better idea of what issues really matter to those groups. Finally, I think it’s too easy for anyone from a big state like California to become a bit insular, and both NCSC and ALF help us see more national and regional issues and trends, and to network more productively with our fellow state chapters.
If the spirit of NCSC resonates with you and you want to get more involved with your CAFP, please contact Jessica Kuo, Membership Coordinator, at email@example.com.