On October 10, Gary LeRoy, MD, of Dayton, OH, was elected as the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) president-elect during the AAFP Congress of Delegates held in New Orleans, LA.
It has been nearly three decades since the OAFP has had a member successfully win the president-elect position, considered one of the highest positions in family medicine. Glen F. Auckerman, MD, was the last to serve as AAFP president-elect from Ohio in 1990.
Throughout the AAFP Congress of Delegates, members were active on social media utilizing the hashtag #AAFPCOD to share in the event’s excitement, spark conversation, and build new relationships with other family physicians, family medicine residents, and medical students across the United States.
After being announced as the new AAFP president-elect, an emotional Dr. LeRoy took the stage. “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third,” said Dr. LeRoy in his acceptance speech.
We are so proud of Dr. LeRoy and are excited to see him ignite the future for every family medicine hero and she-roe.
Following is Dr. LeRoy’s president-elect speech delivered last week during AAFP’s Congress of Delegates:
“Three years ago, I stood before this Congress and told you of my heritage. They were cotton sharecroppers not far from here in Daisy Bend, Mississippi.
Floods were common. In fact, rain eventually washed the little town away. So, my ancestors sought safety in the city of New Orleans.
It’s is somehow poetic that I have returned to the city, seeking hope and a better future, not for myself, but for the members of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Despite once being selected as one of America’s 50 Most Positive Physicians, I am not naive to the realities of family physicians.
It’s true, I live by the motto of the Dayton Foundation. “We help you help others.”
So, it is not uncommon for school principals, people in the grocery store, or legislators from both sides of the political aisle, to routinely contact me seeking my opinion.
Not because of me … but because I am a family physician.
They feel they can talk to me… to us, and that we listen.
During a community event, I was leaving when I saw a local reporter struggling through the crowd to get to me. He asked me if I would do a television interview regarding healthcare reform.
I asked him why he passed by other healthcare professionals in the packed room.
He said, “Because, I know you will provide us with a calm voice of reason regarding the situation.”
In that brief moment, it became clear to me that without a cape or a big Superman “S” on my chest, as a family physician I had become a trusted social advocate and fulfilled the vision of my childhood hero, Marvelmoon.
I was raised by single mother who worked as a domestic maid. Expectations were low. Marvelmoon was my imaginary alter ego – a superhero unlimited in his capacity to help. Marvelmoon was the spirit within me that desired to make the world a better place. Marvelmoon put the needs of others, before personal ambition.
But there’s a time and place for superhero suits, and then there’s a time and place for everyday heroes – like you.
Let’s be honest, a lot of you may be more familiar with Marvelmoon than you are with me. Clark Kent wasn’t the flashiest guy either. But being an activist does not mean simply being the loudest voice in the room spouting soundbites. In my book, a real hero has conversations. It means being a trusted, thoughtful influence. It means getting results.
This is precisely what AAFP does on your behalf. I have traveled across the nation listening to you and talking with you – not at you.
In our conversations, I hear trembling frustration in the voices of members who feel disenfranchised and undervalued in the House of Medicine. These are the family physicians who often angrily state, “The AAFP does not speak for me.”
I often agree with them.
AAFP leadership is not about setting the agenda, it’s about strategically guiding the agenda YOU set.
We can never forget that.
We use your powerful stories to increase awareness about the mighty tasks we face:
- Administrative burdens
- Electronic health records
- Scope of practice
- The opioid epidemic
- Equal pay for equal work…
I will continue to share your stories as your president-elect.
Family physicians provide America with 193 million office visits each year. We are often referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” of public health.
News flash folks:
The canary sounds the alarm for everyone else but is the first to die?
Our demise cannot be part of the solution. Our specialty’s vitality and survival are essential to the entire system. We identify the problems, offer a path to improvement, and then are the most trusted, direct line of communication back to patients.
How many questions do you get every week about what’s going on in healthcare?
They aren’t asking the TV talking heads or flashy politicians – they aren’t around. Those questions are coming to us… and we better have answers.
We know our leadership is essential.
So what’s next?
I’ve attended this Congress for nearly two decades. Every year I hear people say, “He or she never said what they would do if they get elected.”
I understand. We’re becoming conditioned not to trust anyone to follow through. We have become distracted. We’ve likely missed “Breaking News” while we’ve been sitting here.
How do you execute a strategic agenda in this environment?
How do you steer a ship in a hurricane?
The ability to articulate a specific and accurate vision of the future is impossible in a seven-minute speech – especially when issues emerge and contort as rapidly as they do in today’s world. If anyone promises they know precisely what we’ll be dealing with in six months, I’ll introduce them to Marvelmoon … because, they are most likely dealing with fiction.
We must be ready to react and lead.
Thus, we must remain nimble in our deliberations.
Do I have ideas about what we need to accomplish? Absolutely.
I want to bring the joy and value back into the practice of medicine so we can bring joy back to our patients as well. But I am not so arrogant as to pledge that the thoughts in my conscious mind today will be the only challenges worth confronting in the coming years. Because, change is a reliable constant.
We will keep our members informed of the threatening clouds, accumulating on the horizon.
And together, we will navigate the storms.
In the words of an ancient Chinese philosopher:
“Go to the people.
Live with them.
Learn from them.
Start with what they know.
Build with what they have.”
Because again, it’s not about me, it’s always about us.
Together — let us be the real she-roes and heroes of the House of Medicine.”
Congratulations, Dr. LeRoy!