It is a special honor and privilege to begin my term as President of the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP). Our outgoing president, Kate Stolp, deserves an enormous thank you - for guiding the Association so ably, for her genuine passion for AAP and our members, and for making us all feel that we are really a family. I hold a special place for AAP in my heart, having ‘grown’ with the organization since residency and fellowships, through many assistant and associate professor appointments, to Residency Program Director, and now Chairman. Through all this and more, AAP has truly been my ‘academic home.’
Here are a few things that you might not know about my journey:
1) I first served on the AAP Board of Trustees as Residents/Fellows Council (RFC) Chair 20 years ago from 1994-1995 under the leadership of then-President Bruce Gans. I remember proudly announcing at the board meeting that we had a ‘record attendance of 32 residents at the annual meeting.’ I was then asked by the subsequent President, Robert (Skip) Meier, to chair the Constitution and Bylaws committee, even though I pointed out that English is not my native language. I am glad Skip ignored that comment, and appointed me anyway, as that stint gave me a deeper understanding of the AAP’s vision and mission, and better appreciation of its value in shaping an academic career.
2) I applied (unsuccessfully, I admit) for the AAP’s prestigious Program for Academic Leadership (PAL) as a young faculty member. Yet, through the multitude of opportunities that the AAP offered, including networking with the leaders in our field, I found mentorship in honing my leadership skills.
3) I was AAP Program Chair in 2008 & 2009 with attendance numbers reaching 539 & 527 respectively. It is exciting that since then, AAP has enjoyed 62% attendance growth with our recently concluded Annual Meeting in San Antonio attracting over 850 attendees, including over 300 residents. Wow! We have come a long way since my RFC report to the Board all those years ago.
So, why should you be an AAP member and support our organization? AAP is devoted to mentorship, leadership, and discovery in PM&R. This means dedicating all of our resources to expanding and improving academic training and mentorship at all levels, to providing venues for our members to share their ideas and findings - whether in person, print or online - and to establishing an invaluable support network of colleagues and friends to facilitate meaningful exchange and collaboration. AAP has also launched a Public Policy Committee and hired an expert lobbying firm to elevate our fight for research dollars for its members and rehabilitation research and to advocate for GME funding and improvements.
AAP can help bring us together to make our education and research better and to keep it collegial in the true Merriam-Webster meaning of that word, ‘marked by camaraderie among colleagues.’ So, thank you for your ongoing support, participation, and passion about what you do, and please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think will make us even better.
I look forward to working with all of you more closely as we bring academic physiatry to higher heights!
Gerard E. Francisco, MD