By Clare Hawkins, M.D., M.Sc.
TAFP President, 2013-2014
Electronic opportunities to connect with friends, family, and colleagues abound. I can communicate very quickly with people I know and people I don’t know. I can broadcast ideas by blogging and I can post photos or see others’ photos in many ways. This is both exciting and frightening. Who am I reaching? Who knows these details about me?
As a family physician most of my contact is with individual patients or their families, essentially one on one. Therefore these new opportunities are not familiar to my normal social intercourse. I’m so used to confidentiality and preserving my professional image that in my middle age, I find myself uncomfortable reaching out.
How should I get connected professionally or socially? Should I get “linked in” to a professional network? Perhaps, but what about privacy, being barraged by unsolicited e-mails, or being taken out of context?
Considering opportunities for a virtual professional community, I realize I have a real professional community in TAFP, available to me in so many different ways. The more I think about it, the more I come to value it.
The practice of medicine can be isolating, especially for the busy clinician whose treatment of his or her patients consumes so much time. It may well be true that no man is an island, but frequently we function as isolated individuals in our busy daily professional role. What’s more, the confidentiality we vow to keep with our patients compels us to carry others’ burdens in silence. With whom can we share the weight we carry?
TAFP facilitates formal and informal venues to discuss the difficulties we carry. There are opportunities to ask questions and share thoughts. These include CME sessions, committees and commissions, and the peer-to-peer networks that we create.
In the literature on physician wellness, there is good evidence that we perform better as physicians if we are healthier. A healthy physician is one who is not only practicing good general health behaviors, but one who employs strategies to deal with the stress of being a physician.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed as doctors and we need help. We need a new medical partner, a locum, or a new practice design. TAFP is a great resource for finding a practice partner or a place to practice, and in these days of constant change, we can open our minds to new practice arrangements.
Since becoming part of the TAFP family, I’ve found that there are resources I wouldn’t have dreamed of. I’ve found them by meeting family physicians across the state, because you see, the greatest resources your Academy has to offer are you, its members. By interfacing with a network of family physicians who have adapted to diverse conditions, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The geographic and business challenges specific to each area of Texas are remarkable, and in this great laboratory, we can find myriad examples of best practices.
One of the best opportunities to meet your colleagues and experience this network is by joining us at one or more of our statewide CME conferences. TAFP’s learning community allows for exchange of ideas, interacting with peers, sharing new ideas, and challenging old ones. For me, they offer a breath of fresh air, a reset if you will, or a recalibration.
I find that attending these events stimulates my thinking, and makes me feel synchronized with my colleagues. Interactive learning through the group ABFM Self-Assessment Modules is even more stimulating as I can work through problems with colleagues and benefit from their knowledge.
Next year, the Academy has big changes in store for our live CME events, as we move our Annual Session from the summer to November to pair it with one of our most popular conferences, Primary Care Summit. The other big announcement is that TAFP is launching a brand-new conference in the spring, the Texas Family Medicine Symposium, which will offer 25 credits of cutting-edge CME including your required ethics credit in only two and a half days.
We believe these changes will provide the Academy new chances for growth and improvement, and we invite you to take a look at the full 2015 schedule and mark your calendars accordingly. Visit www.tafp.org/professional-development to plan your CME for next year.
The more involved you become, you’ll realize as I have how our community is one of support and comradery. Peers can and have assisted each other at times of family crisis, job change, and other difficulties. Few people understand the life of a family physician like other family physicians, and our mutual support strengthens the individual and the Academy. In a real way, TAFP is a family for each of us.
In various ways and at various times we support one another, encourage one another, and inspire each other. When we are feeling burned out and frustrated, interaction through the Academy refocuses us on our central mission, unites the family physicians of Texas through advocacy, education, and member services, and empowers us to provide a medical home for patients of all ages.
So get closer to your family of family physicians. Continue coming to TAFP functions across the state and interacting in our virtual community through www.tafp.org and our social media accounts. Follow TAFP on Twitter at @TXFamilyDocs and like us on Facebook. I’ll see you there.