Those of you “of a certain age” will remember this iconic poster. It, along with Rosie the Riveter, were probably the most famous picture posters of WWII. I’m going to use this famous recruitment poster as an appeal to have WAFP members become more involved in our professional academy. Past presidents of the WAFP have had an area of focus or theme for their year in office. I’ve decided to use my time to call for a year of engagement. Engagement can be via a variety of venues. Hopefully some of you will decide to take the biggest plunge and consider the personal engagement of your time. I fully realize this may be a difficult sacrifice, however it is a needed one for the benefit of your profession. But, I also want to emphasize that it is easier than you likely think.
Legislative – Many of you are already aware of the Speak Out Program used by the AAFP when prompt communication is needed with your legislators on a pending issue before Congress. Usually the issue is of general interest to the entire membership. Recent notable actions included funding for Teaching Health Centers, Title VII training, CHIP, and changes to improve insurance markets in the Omnibus Spending Bill. Also, for medical student members, tax deductibility of student loan interest was highlighted last year. In Wisconsin we also use the Speak Out tool for state specific issues. These tools are extremely easy to use. Please use them liberally to advocate for our profession. Numbers matter! Legislators pay attention when many physicians contact them on an issue.
Other advocacy tools are the AAFP Family Physician Action Network (FPAN) and the WAFP Key Contact programs. Both the national and state academies utilize these programs to engage members regularly on key issues. On strategic issues, the Academy will ask a Key Contact to get a hold of the relevant legislator via phone/letter/email/personal contact. Other Key Contacts will also be asked throughout the district or state. Being a contact myself for both Academies, I can attest that they are used sparingly and strategically and take up little time. However, they can have a huge impact when important legislation is before the state or national legislatures. You can sign up with the AAFP and WAFP to use these vehicles.
Financial – It’s tough to break through the onslaught of requests we all get from various organizations. Hurricane relief, alma mater foundations, children’s hospitals, and those rescue puppy commercials are all worthy recipients of financial support. But, only your professional academies are working to improve your practice environment, enhance your professional knowledge, nurture and support your future leaders, work to protect family medicine’s scope of practice, and, importantly, encourage medical students to choose family medicine so you can have future practice partners and colleagues. Continuing your AAFP/WAFP memberships are the best way to ensure that collectively we continue the health of family medicine. It’s not too late to renew for 2018! If you have still not renewed membership, you can do so here.
The WAFP Foundation offers further ways to advance specific family medicine programs that depend on member support. You have probably heard of the Foundation’s biggest yearly endeavor, the Send Students to National Conference campaign. What you may not know is how highly successful a program this is for recruiting medical students into the field of Family Medicine. Historically about 77% of students who attend the conference match in FM! This is a phenomenally high rate and validates the success of this single program. Other worthy causes are detailed at their website.
The WAFP also has a PAC (and no, it’s not a 4-letter word). Political Action Committee’s (PAC’s) are an essential component of many successful organizations’ business model. Although I wished it was otherwise, PAC’s are a fact of life and an essential component of promoting legislation that you want. Your Academy dues only fund the basic functions of this process. Other professional groups contribute heavily compared to family physicians. Stunningly, <1% of WAFP members contribute to the PAC. It’s hard to keep up with the proverbial Jones with this level of support. Our Academy could do much more promoting legislation given better funding. There is an old political adage; “if you’re not at the table, you’re likely on the menu”. It’s clever and very, very true. Please consider contributing.
Personal time – this is the toughest, yet most important “ask”. Time is valuable for everyone but our Academy doesn’t function without volunteer members. I’ve found that people greatly overestimate the time required for active participation. Our busiest committee, the Legislative committee, requires about an hour each month. Meetings are by teleconference and information is sent electronically. Other committees require less time since they meet less often. Workgroups might require a few hours over a few months and then disband when the work is done. The Board of Directors only meet 3 times yearly and typically require an hour or two of prep time before the meetings. All are great ways to meet engaged colleagues from throughout Wisconsin. Personal time commitment is much less than members usually think. A constant flow of new ideas is needed to keep the Academy fresh and relevant. Please explore involvement opportunities and consider the donation of your time.
For those of you who have an interest in the work of philanthropy, serving on the WAFP Foundation Board of Director’s (BoD) may be for you. There are only 3 Board meetings yearly. Applicants with previous organizational volunteer experience are valued but this is not required. The Foundation is currently accepting nominations to its BoD for an at-large director and resident director. Visit the website to learn more.
Lastly, there are also ways to become involved with the direction of our national academy. The AAFP has seven Commissions (Education, Advocacy, Membership, Public Health, Professional Development, Finances, Quality) which help guide the AAFP and its BoD. Wisconsin usually contributes more members than we currently have serving (2) and we could use more interested physicians. Learn more here.
Although we’d much prefer to have you personally involved in WAFP, there are certainly other ways you can contribute. For Family Physicians to influence and lead the changing landscape of the health care world, we all need to work together. Please consider getting more involved in one of the ways listed above. Because, WE NEED YOU!
I’d be interested in hearing your comments. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for being a member of OUR Academy!
Steve Bartz, MD