By TAFP COO Kathy McCarthy, CAE
I had the privilege of attending the HOSA International Leadership Conference on behalf of AAFP in June. HOSA-Future Health Professionals is a global organization with a mission to promote career opportunities in the health industry and to enhance the delivery of quality health care for all people. It includes middle school and collegiate students, but most attendees at the conference were high school students. The regional, state, and international conferences include business sessions to elect their leadership, educational seminars and workshops, and competitive events and exams. This was the first live international event for the organization since 2019 and there were more than 10,000 high school students from across the country and the world at the meeting (the lines at the Starbucks were a testament to size of the gathering).
AAFP has worked with HOSA the past few years to develop an exam and competitive event focused on family medicine, and my purpose for attending the conference was to help judge the first live competition. The high school students did at least two interviews with family physicians and medical students. The interviews along with their research informed a presentation on the specialty, the educational pathway, and more. They gave their presentations to a group of their peers before going to competitive events. In Texas, we have seven regions with competitions and a statewide event that had 18 competitors in the Family Medicine Physician event.
I joined AAFP staff, family physicians, a medical student, and other chapter executives in the difficult task of judging the students who made it to the highest level of the competition. There were close to 40 competitors. Most of them were really great and a few got beyond the data on projected primary care shortages and cost of medical education and seemed to truly find the “secret sauce” of what makes family medicine and family physicians so amazing. A couple that I saw conveyed the passion of the physicians they interviewed. They showed the depth of their relationships with patients, the ability to provide better care because of those relationships, and the joy in being part of their patients’ lives from cradle to grave.
Sitting at the opening ceremony, I listened to the list of sponsors and noted that family medicine was the only specialty represented. There also weren’t any state or county medical societies involved. I applaud AAFP for forging this relationship and bringing Texas and other state chapters along with them. Creating this competitive event that exposes more young people to family medicine is a great way to work towards achieving their goal of having 25% of medical students choose family medicine by 2030. AAFP also had a booth in the expo hall and two breakout sessions led by family physicians who answered questions and provided more information to engaged groups of high school students.
This is just our first year working with HOSA. TAFP gave prizes to the top three statewide competitors, and we expect the competition to grow in the coming years. I encourage you to consider getting involved with a local HOSA chapter or sign up to be interviewed as a family medicine ambassador. You can have a huge impact on the career of a high schooler who has self-identified as interested in a career in health care. We can help identify a high school in your area that might need a guest speaker or has students who want to interview or shadow you. They will also be looking for judges for the regional and statewide competitions early next year. Fill out this form or contact HOSA directly.