President's Message

May 2021

Julie Johnston, MD, FAAFP – MASSFP President

Julie Johnston, MD, FAAFP

As we move towards a new stage of the pandemic, with widespread vaccination and decreasing infections, we are able to turn our attention to other health crises. Both our nation and Massachusetts have long been facing an unacceptable maternal health crisis. The ratio of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births has been steadily increasing nationwide over the past several decades and disproportionately affects Black Massachusetts residents compared to their White counterparts. About 30 percent of pregnancy-related deaths nationwide occur after 43 days postpartum, and the issue is just as severe in Massachusetts.[1] Recently, Black Maternal Health Week, started by the Black Mama’s Matter Alliance brought attention to this critical issue.  To this end, your academy members lobbied for the extension of postpartum healthcare insurance coverage during our Lobby Day on April 9th in order to decrease gaps in care as postpartum conditions continue longer than 60 days.

We experienced our first virtual advocacy day, with over 75 members participating in conversations with Senators and Representatives across the Commonwealth. In addition to extended postpartum insurance coverage, we lobbied for primary care investment, and our own family medicine workforce bill. It was a success which we’ll build on by continuing to engage you in grassroots advocacy efforts through our Key Contact Program, asking for in-person and written testimony, and other ways. When we send a Call to Action to contact legislators, encourage your colleagues to participate!

Continuing on the theme of racial justice and healthcare equity, this academy has committed to improving health equity in a more visible form with our statement. You may take action by joining or even leading the Health Equity and Social Justice Council which will guide our academy in this important work.

Later this month we are going to trial two online member interest groups (MIGs) in order foster more connection with your colleagues that share similar interests and experiences. This program is modeled on the AAFP member groups and will start with Reproductive Health, and Physicians of Color. We’ll be sending details and instructions on how to join later this month.

“Action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all”, Elie Wiesel. Your academy continues to speak up, challenge ourselves, stand up for our patients, and the specialty of family medicine.

NATAL: A Docuseries about having a baby while black in the United States


[1] Babbs G, McCloskey L, Gordon S. (2021). “Expanding Postpartum Medicaid Benefits to Combat Maternal Mortality and Morbidity.” Health Affairs. Web.

Your chapter officers and I just attended AAFP’s Annual Chapter Leadership Conference (ACLF) – this conference is a time to focus on and find new ways to address the issues that affect the members of your chapter and state, by engaging in important dialogue. ACLF draws more than 200 attendees each year and features targeted breakout sessions on chapter governance, advocacy, communications, meetings, and leadership. In the eight years I’ve served you as your executive director, our chapter has re-engaged and attended this conference each of the 8 years along with sending a MassAFP delegation to the National Conference of Constituency Leaders (NCCL).

During the conference, we had an opportunity to attend a session about “good governance” and how important the leadership partnership between the executive director and the leadership of the chapter was highlighted. As volunteer leaders, the legal fiduciary responsibilities of the board is to steer the organization towards a sustainable future while allowing the paid leader to direct the operations and work to see it through. In other words, the volunteer staff is the “what” – what are we focusing on – and the paid staff is the “how” – how are we going to accomplish this.

Many of you, members of MassAFP, just know the work of this organization gets done and that there’s value in being part of this organization via the representation we provide by providing a voice through state advocacy efforts; education/CME you need to stay up to date in your clinical practice and to meet regulatory requirements as well as board certification; and access to tools, solutions and insights you can implement into your daily work and personal life. But what does that mean?

You have a whole team of professionals who stand behind you each and every day to do the good work of the Academy. We’re responsible for planning, organizing and carrying out the day-to-day operations and programs. I’m responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of the organization. This is done by both oversight and work collaboratively with staff on all administrative functions. There’s a lot that goes in to the day-to-day that include responding to member inquiries, financials (payables and receivables), this newsletter, website, planning and orchestrating committees/workgroups and carrying out the strategic plan activities. This also includes some of the most important responsibilities which includes oversight and execution of all program goals and objectives and evaluate progress and effectiveness (including the annual meeting & Spring Refresher); ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations, including tax/990 filing and state registration; oversee and implement all academy policies and monitor all staff activities according to existing policies; safeguard the financials of the organization by implementing sound principals in money management and negotiating and establishing good contracts/agreements that protect the organization from liability – whether that be hotel/venue contracts, any outside vendors or partner organizations.

Governance structure is not the sole duty of the board of directors. I have a role, too. I work with the board in order to fulfill the organization’s mission, as defined by the board. I communicate regularly with the leaders, work closely with the board to seek their involvement in policy decisions, fundraising and to increase overall visibility of MassAFP. From a financial/fiscal perspective, it’s my job to ensure the financial health of the organization and ensure viability. I don’t make the decisions – your board does – but they depend on me and my staff’s expertise to do this. It’s the board’s legal responsibility to make sure the organization minimizes risk (be risk averse). This is not just desirable for a non-profit, but legally required! It’s my role to keep an awareness and current level of knowledge in this area and advise your board.

The last thing discussed at this governance session is what the future of associations and its staff looks like in a post COVID world. How does the organization adjust and define itself and how the work gets done? Much conversation amongst the chapters and the presenter was about moving to virtual. All have gone virtual over this last year and not many are going back to the office. Many chapters’ staff, including their executive directors, have moved back to home states and no longer live in the state they’re representing. No one anticipates going back because it works so well to work from anywhere! You’ve been fortunate to run smoothly with a virtual office for the last eight years, so in a sense, MassAFP has been ahead of its time!

Since my team and I joined MassAFP as your staff we’ve grown from medium-sized AAFP chapter to large, we’ve gone from having no reserve funds to over $147,000, we’ve established academy policies to meet requirements and provide needed structure, rejoined regional chapter groups and joined other coalitions that align with our mission and strategic goals. Also, I’d be remiss to mention we have engaged a highly regarded lobbying firm in Massachusetts, Rasky Partners, who has helped us elevate our chapter to be known and respected at the State House. Legislators and the Governor’s office reaches out to us now to actively seek our input and expertise in healthcare.

These are all things to be proud of. It was satisfying to hear from an industry expert how a credible membership organization can and should be run and we’re already there. We’ve heard this time and time again from similar sessions offered by AAFP and the American Society of Association Executives at the annual CEO Symposium I attend with your president-elects. Even though the conference was virtual this year, it was good to be part of it along with President Julie Johnston, MD, President-Elect Emily Chin, MD and Vice President Hannah Biederman, MD. All this validated what we are told, by AAFP and my ASAE colleagues, that we are representing and serving you well. ACLF and NCCL just ended only a few short days ago. Watch for next month’s newsletter which will feature takeaways and reports from your representatives from both conferences.

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