From Argentina: Symposium exploring Family Medicine in the Americas
Recently I was asked to give a talk in Buenos Aires, Argentina at a symposium exploring the crisis in Family Medicine and Primary Care in the Americas. I was delighted to accept and was able to arrange for one of our first year medical students to join me. What an opportunity to reconnect with the physicians I had worked with during my sabbatical, and of course, to show off the best of Buenos Aires to Ani, the medical student who accompanied me!
The symposium was organized by Dr. Julio Ceitlin, a family physician who has worked all his life to promote primary care and founder of family medicine in many Latin American countries. The purpose of the symposium was to present our experiences/ frustrations with promoting, practicing and teaching primary care in our respective countries. I was asked to present on the Medical Home and on Chronic Disease Management, concepts that are unique to family medicine in the United States. Ani presented beautifully in her fluent Spanish on how the University of Minnesota teaches and promotes family medicine. In attendance were program directors, medical school faculty, residents and family physicians from the US, Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela.
Pita Presents her Lecture at the Symposium
I learned, as I often experienced during my sabbatical, that we are blessed in the United States. We have the Academy of Family Medicine that works tirelessly at the local, state and national level to promote our profession and the health of our nation. We have 400+ family medicine residencies, Departments of Family Medicine at most medical schools and ample employment opportunities for our graduating residents. Much of the presentations from our Latin American colleagues focused on the paucity of trained primary care physicians, how other specialties have little understanding of the principles and worth of family medicine and the lack of family physician academies or central organizing bodies. I was deeply impressed by their dedication and persistence in promoting the ideals of primary care (despite the forces against them) and a little embarrassed by my/our complaints about family medicine in the US.
So often we become entangled and immersed in the complicated details of our day to day practice that we forget why we do what we do. Listening to our colleagues fighting for family medicine, I was reminded of the essentials of what we do - attend to the common medical, psychological and social needs of our patients through listening, testing and teaching of our patients, their families and the community.
Personally, I was tickled to be back in Buenos Aires. Despite being in the midst of winter (we went the end of May) the weather was just as warm and the vegetation just as green as in the Twin Cities. I ate way too many media lunas (small sweet croissants that way out shine our mega chocolate chip conference cookies), savored their gelato ice cream (had to do so for my children) and took Ani to our favorite restaurant. Ani and I were able to have tea and dinner with my favorite aunt, stroll through the artist markets and visit a few of the historic sites.
Where from here? At the symposium, we all agreed to organize an "Observatorio" a group dedicated to observe our specialty and report back to the others what we are seeing. We hope collectively to support each other and help promote our specialty in our respective countries. Today I received my first email from the Observatorio - stay tuned on what we discover and the work we hope to do.
Dr. Carlos Cantale, Dr. Pita Adam, Dr. Julio Ceitlin