By Cindy Borgmeyer, AAFP News
Academy members weighed in on a diverse range of issues during the 2016 Congress of Delegates, including resolutions considered by the Education Reference Committee on Monday. When all was said and done, AAFP delegates adopted measures that addressed professional burnout and student loan repayment, among other topics.
MITIGATING BURNOUT, PROMOTING WELLNESS
Reference committee members heard testimony on two different resolutions that focused on burnout among medical students, residents, and practicing physicians.
One measure asked the AAFP to explore available resources related to burnout, including a 24-hour hotline, and promote those resources to Academy members. The second sought to increase member awareness of depression, burnout, and suicide; tear down barriers physicians, students, and residents face when accessing mental health services to deal with these problems; and expand and promote resources that emphasize resilience and mental wellness.
In its report, the reference committee acknowledged that the Academy has identified the issue of burnout as a top strategic priority and launched a comprehensive initiative to tackle it head-on. Still, committee members recommended adoption of a substitute measure combining most elements of the two original resolutions, plus a request that the AAFP continue dialogue with the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) to reduce the stigma of and barriers to seeking mental health care. Delegates adopted that substitute in their Tuesday business session.
LOAN REPAYMENT FOR FP FACULTY
Three different resolutions addressed student debt forgiveness strategies that would benefit family physicians that serve as faculty for future FPs, especially in medically underserved areas. The reference committee offered a substitute resolution that combined the sense of all three measures.
Georgia alternate delegate Harry Strothers III, MD, of East Point pointed to background information for one of the measures that references a Health Resources and Services Administration program that awards teaching grants of $40,000 for a two-year commitment.
“The problem is that they actually funded 19 out of 143 applications, and a lot of schools don’t even recommend that people apply for them because that gets up the hopes of your junior faculty, and then they get dashed because—19 out of 143? In the whole country?” Strothers said.
As a department chair at Mercer University School of Medicine, he’s well aware of this shortfall.
“While the income of family physicians has increased rapidly in the last couple of years, especially for new graduates, the academic institutions have not been able to keep up with that increase,” Strothers said. He’s lost faculty members to “large integrated health systems” as a result.
“So we need some help recruiting and retaining our faculty,” Strothers said.
Speaking on behalf of the Resident/Student Caucus, Elizabeth McIntosh of Cortland, N.Y., observed that when it comes to sealing the deal among students considering a career in primary care, it’s not so much about a specialty’s prestige or importance as it is about retiring student debt load.
Delegates also adopted a measure calling for the Academy to work with groups such as the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine to “study the feasibility of pursuing legislation to allow family medicine faculty, both volunteer and employed, to qualify for loan repayment programs.”
Delegates also adopted resolutions that asked the AAFP to:
- Impress upon the ABFM the need to change the maintenance of certification process and to ease the requirements for re-entry into the certification pathway for FPs whose certification has lapsed.
- Develop and disseminate materials aimed at high school, college, and medical students that highlight the breadth and depth of family medicine.
- Encourage residencies to offer point-of-care ultrasound training and offer CME and other learning sessions on this topic at Academy meetings.
- Promote training licensure reciprocity to the FSMB.