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Family Medicine Focus of October Conference in Pittsburgh

The Family Medicine Education Consortium (FMEC), a not-for-profit organization working to promote family medicine, primary services and medical education, brings its "quiet revolution in health care" to western Pennsylvania in a big way this October 28-30, when it hosts its 36th annual meeting at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. According to Executive Director Laurence Bauer, FMEC works to connect consumers, healthcare professionals, educators and businesses interested in improving the health of the community. FMEC's primary area of focus is the northeast region of the U.S. "The healthcare system in western Pennsylvania is in crisis," said Bauer. "Costs of healthcare for businesses and consumers continue to spiral out of control—exacerbated by the 7,000 to 10,000 baby boomers joining Medicare every day and the increasing fragmentation of service delivery. In addition, the rate of burnout among primary care physicians has increased. Primary care practices have become a 'hamster wheel' that serves well neither patient nor physician.

"The result is an expensive delivery system with too few primary care physicians to serve our communities."

The problem, according to Bauer, is exacerbated by the continued decline in the number of students choosing family medicine and primary care as a career—a trend Bauer says bodes poorly for the long term health of our communities.

But there is a solution, Bauer said, and it can be found in the offices of primary care physicians.

"A family physician is uniquely trained to care for the whole person," he said. "The family physician works with the individual to achieve the best possible outcome in the most cost-effective manner. In addition to diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses, a family physician provides routine health screenings and counseling on lifestyle changes to prevent illnesses before they develop. And, if a health condition arises that requires care from another specialist, the family physician will guide the patient and coordinate his or her care.

"Equally critical, the family physician is in the best position to counsel individuals on preventive practices and lifestyle changes to improve overall health. This can lessen the need for costly treatment down the road while improving the overall health and wellbeing of each patient.

"The cornerstone of family medicine is an ongoing, personal patient-physician focused on integrated care."

According to FMEC, evidence supports the notion that increasing the number of family physicians or primary care physicians improves the health of a community while lowering overall healthcare costs. The organization was formed to promote family medicine on a number of fronts.

FMEC member organizations include medical school-based departments of family medicine, family medicine residency programs, state chapters of the American Academy of Family Physicians, statewide primary care associations, community health centers and community-based and hospital-owned primary care practices.

"FMEC works with its members to achieve the full potential of family medicine," said Bauer. "Our goals include inspiring medical students to seek a career in family medicine; creating and sustaining regional teams that support cost-effective, quality improvement initiatives; supporting and stimulating innovative approaches to primary care service delivery, and strengthening academic family medicine by providing faculty development mentoring and leadership experiences."

Among the efforts sponsored by FMEC to achieve these goals include educational programs and a number of collaborative projects. Once a year it also presents a major conference. This year's event in Pittsburgh is expected to attract more than 200 family medicine residents and 250 family medicine faculty members from across the northeast region and elsewhere. The meeting provides employers, educators, healthcare organizations and potential students a forum to meet and discuss issues critical to all.

"We are putting together a schedule that should interest everyone," Bauer said, adding that among the offerings are an address by the Dalai Lama's personal physician and a special session on integrative health and wellness.

The FMEC offers scholarships to medical students from across the US and the northeast region of the US. One of the core goals of the conference is to promote medical student interest in a career as a family physician. Since 1992, the FMEC has offered more than 6000 scholarships to medical students.

"Through the conference and other outreach efforts, we hope to build long term relationships with the business and healthcare communities," said Bauer. "We welcome their participation with the conference and our other programs. Our main goal is to work together to improve the overall health of our communities."

For more information on the Family Medicine Education Consortium, its programs and the upcoming conference in Pittsburgh, visit fmec.net.

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