Department Farewell

Hi Everyone. Thanks Dave and everybody for giving me a few minutes. I’d like to use my time not to reflect on my personal journey in family medicine, which I did at the 50th anniversary celebration, but to share a few observations about family medicine in general. My personal story is interesting to me, because it’s MY story, but it becomes pretty small in the scheme of things, especially the particular things unfolding around us right now.

I started working in Family Medicine when it was a very young specialty. In those days, Family Medicine was the upstart new kid on the medical specialty block. It conceived of itself as a revolutionary movement poised to change the existing healthcare paradigm. It located patients in families, and families in communities. It recognized and stood against inequities in access to healthcare. Long before we had the language, it acknowledged social determinants of disease. Family Medicine wasn’t perfect – for example, its leadership was almost all male and pretty much exclusively white – but it offered a radical alternative to the entrenched healthcare establishment.

After years of being on the outside, with the advent of managed care, some people saw an opportunity for FM to become a respected inside player in healthcare. Others believed the specialty was at risk of selling its soul. In my view, in those years, FM wandered in the desert, sacrificing its revolutionary ideals for a seat at the table, which turned out to be at the foot.

But I’ve been very fortunate to stick around long enough so that in the last decade, I’ve had the privilege of seeing FM begin reclaim its roots. I’ve seen it increasingly taking stands at state and national levels in support of equity, diversity, and social justice. I’ve seen it increasingly attract medical students with a deep and abiding commitment to underserved populations. Our faculty in particular have made me very proud to be associated with this specialty. Through all of your actions, I’ve seen high quality care delivered to underresourced communities with compassion and respect. I’ve seen innovative, creative ways of redefining what health means and how to achieve it in ways that are culturally humble.

After 42 years, it is with both sadness and pride that I leave this department. Despite the overwhelming challenges that face us, as a department, an institution, and a country, I have great faith in family medicine and in all of you. I believe there is a real chance now for meaningful change, at all those levels. I imagine a future in which family medicine principles and values suffuse all of medicine; in which this department and its faculty become a respected institutional leader; and in which our country reconstitutes itself in ways that support justice, inclusion, and equity. Right now, it may seem like a dream, but I entreat you to keep fighting the good fight. Thank you all for being such great colleagues.