As the new president of the Leawood, Kan.-based American Academy of Family Physicians, Michael Fleming has vowed to heighten the association's profile in the nation's capital and push hard for key issues affecting family physicians, including Medicare reimbursement and access to care.
While the 95,000-member AAFP is the third-largest doctors' group, behind the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, Fleming points out that it is the biggest "homogenous" group representing a single specialty.
"We're the only specialty that has a member in every congressional district," said the 53-year-old physician. "We're using that to help us increase our visibility. Healthcare is one of the key issues in America today. We want to be prominent in the debate."
A Shreveport, La., resident who served for three years as speaker of the academy's Congress of Delegates before assuming the job of president-elect in 2002, Fleming took over the top post during the academy's annual meeting earlier this month in New Orleans. He replaces James Martin, of San Antonio, who was named board chair of the academy.
One of his goals during his yearlong term, Fleming said, is to make a monthly visit to Capitol Hill to discuss strategic issues with policymakers. He also said he would help launch a patient-advocacy initiative aimed at enlisting the help of patients in lobbying efforts on the most pressing issues facing family physicians. That could be a powerful political force, he said, considering that Americans make about 200 million office visits per year to their family physicians.
Fleming is the managing senior partner of Family Doctors, a 10-member private group practice in Shreveport, and also serves as an assistant clinical professor in the department of family medicine at Louisiana State University Health Science Center and in the department of family medicine and community medicine at Tulane University Medical School.
In 1996, Fleming was named Louisiana Family Doctor of the Year.