Passing the Family Medicine Torch

An ancient Chinese philosopher said ‘journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.

But what Lao-Tze failed to mention was that the traveler is often nudged into taking that first step. In my case, it was a fellow resident more than 18 years ago who said to me, “Jack, I’m going to San Francisco with the residents group for the CAFP annual meeting. Do you want to tag along?” And as they say “the rest is history.” During the next dozen or so years, I learned three important lessons as an academy leader and as a family medicine revolutionary: 1) tell your unique story; 2) share your passion; and 3) pay it forward.

My story began as a young boy dreaming of becoming a physician. I immigrated to a new country, learned a new language and culture and becoming a physician. Having chosen family medicine, I recognized early in my training in a county hospital that healthcare in America needed to transform from a “sick-care” industrial complex to a value-based health delivery system. During a third-year family medicine rotation in medical school, I experienced how an integrated healthcare model can truly affect patient lives by focusing on the health of not only the patient, but also improving health outcomes of the entire community.

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As I began my career in family medicine within an integrated health system, I realized that the way to accomplish this desired system transformation would rely heavily on obtaining accurate data for quality and performance improvement in conjunction with robust support for clinicians to achieve the desired goals. Now, as a “digital immigrant,” I again had to learn a new language and culture, adapting to an always evolving technological landscape while balancing operational workflows of a practice with a technically rigid and often clunky electronic health record. Through the years, I’ve found my passion and discovered my talent in helping others transform and thrive within this shifting medical landscape. Over the past decade, I’ve been involved in bringing necessary system and process changes to the march to achieve the Triple Aim. And finally, over the past few years, I’ve been blessed to help my colleagues to bring a little bit of joy back into their own lives by teaching the necessary skills to efficiently get through their days.

Yet, like screaming at the top of your lungs while standing on a lonely mountain top, the world will not hear you unless someone is there to listen. I’ve been fortunate to have had the ears of supportive friends and inspiring leaders who propelled me through my leadership journey. I was lucky enough to have encountered great mentors who saw leadership potential in me and took time to share their wisdom. They showed me the way, and I’ve been honored to hold various leadership positions at work and in the specialty of family medicine. Owing to this experience, I’ve strived to emulate my mentors and become a coach and cheerleader to inspire future family medicine leaders.

Ultimately, my goal is to pass the torch of family medicine to the next generation of FMRevolution-aries. I want to hear your unique stories and your passion for family medicine. Perhaps I can even offer some pointers like my predecessors have. Maybe, it’ll just be enough to spark that leadership glimmer in your eyes. And it’ll be my privilege to nudge you into joining me on this wonderful journey to change healthcare in America and to make health primary.




Jack Chou, MD is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors and is currently a candidate for AAFP President-Elect. Get to know more about Jack by checking out his website




Author: Allison Bauer

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