I just read a summary of the Family in Family Medicine Conference by Michael Crouch, MD, MSPH, from Texas that bubbled my heart a bit with nostalgia. It is where my dream about families was focused and reaffirmed. The Amelia Island, FL venue didn't hurt either. This is the 30th year anniversary of the original conference started by Roy Gerard, MD and Don Cassata in 1981.
The Conference faded the last few years and STFM (the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine) responded to the poor attendance with cancellation of the series. Other groups are working to carry on the concepts about family and behavioral science in a unified way that will generate supportive attendance with the task of naming a merged group of STFM as one of the first challenges.
I wrote previously of Robert Smith, MD teaching me about how to run a "Families Only" family practice (here). I did what he said and reaped the rewards of rich relationships and clinical insights that otherwise would just be a dream. The family has always been alive and well as the basic unit of decision making in America. I love learning from and about families every day in my practice and daily life. I presented about my "Families Only" practice at the FIFM meeting one year. Another presentation was with Larry Bauer, MSW, MEd about Five Levels of Family in the family practice office visit. We presented in San Diego at a later FIFM Conference about Genomics in Family Medicine.
I'll never forget how Joan Patterson, PhD mesmerized me with her Family Evaluation tools for every type of situation. She gave a couple presentations at one of the first FIFM Conferences I attended and I still have her book of scales to measure family strength, weakness, adolescent situations, etc in each stage of the life cycle. I was amazed at all the ways to look at the family and apply the learning to family practice (later renamed Family Medicine).
The Family Life Cycle is one meaningful concept that helps me to better evaluate developmental issues in family life. Each stage of the life cycle has developmental tasks that should be accomplished in that stage, otherwise the family may stagnate and stay stuck. Family APGAR is a useful element in the STFM medical history form (that all new adult patients fill out) enabling the family physician to get a glimpse of the patient's family support. Models of family structure and function are useful in evaluating relationships in the family that could smolder into significant family dysfunction. I learned about the application of these concepts at Amelia Island at the FIFM Conference and I loved it.
In more recent years at the conference, no longer at Amelia Island, I was surprised to learn from some of the marital and family therapists that men are very dependent on their wife, if they are married, but the wives are not nearly as dependent. Translation: men will quickly seek out the next woman after their current wife divorces them but women don't need to quickly find a new male mate because they have friends who support the woman and help her process her feelings.
I remember a wonderful session at FIFM during which Steve Allen, Jr., MD taught us to juggle, and there were a couple or more of the usual STFM dances and social gigs. We sang one year in Karyoke fashion. Caryl Heaton, DO, later to become a president of STFM, was a natural party organizer and song leader and a Family Fanatic. Deborah Taylor, PhD was passionate about teaching the family and behavioral issues in Family Medicine to residents and faculty.
The Amelia Island weather was usually supportive except the last time I went there it was raining and cold. Still that was a great meeting at which we learned of the "Team Approach to Cost Effective Health Care" via family medicine and professional networks doing family focused home visits on heavy utilizers of medical services.
Thank you to the founders and supporters of the FIFM Conference series and good luck to those reframing and upgrading the family and behavioral training for future Family Fanatics! You never outgrow your need to Know Family!