The History and Evolution of Family Medicine

Considered to be the oldest medical specialty, family medicine is a practice devoted to providing comprehensive medical care to patients of all ages and backgrounds. Coined as “general practice” in the 1900s, a majority of graduates from medical schools in America chose a career in general practice where they became skilled in childcare, maternal care as well as surgery. This field of medicine grew in popularity after World War II with the increase of specialties and technological advances during that period. It wasn’t long after that family medicine– as we know it today – was acknowledged as a unique medical specialty. But the road to making family medicine a recognized specialty wasn’t easy.

Numerous reports released in 1966 addressed the problem of declining generalists as well as a push to make family medicine a board-certified specialty:

  • The Folsom Report, which concluded, “every American should have a personal physician to ensure the integration and continuity of all medical services.”
  • The Millis Report, which focused on graduate medical education and determined that family medicine needed to be a board-certified specialty.
  • The Willard Report, which recommended residency-training programs for family medicine and specified the establishment of a board to oversee certification.

Three years later in 1969, The American Board of Family Practice was established, now known as the American Board of Family Medicine.

The 1970s was a booming period for Family Practice. At that time, there were over 300 residency programs available in the U.S. with upwards to 7,500 residents and 100 medical schools that had a Family Practice department or division. In the early 1980s, the third largest residency belonged to Family Practice.

In 2002, the Future of Family Medicine project developed a strategy to transform the identity of the family medicine specialty as well as meet the needs of both patients and physicians in the ever-changing health-care environment.

Fast-forward to 2013 and you’ll find that family medicine and the role of family physicians have changed drastically. For example, family doctors and medical schools alike are in the midst of fighting the impending physician shortage and technological advancements are changing the way doctors treat and diagnose patients. Following the lead of the American Academy of Family Physicians, there is an increasing number of advocacy groups and organizations stepping in to give family physicians a stronger voice.

In this video, you will find a brief history on the evolution of family medicine and how it has grown to be one of the most respected medical professions. You will also find out how the AAFP Insurance program will be able help you – the family physician – protect your health and your financial future.

The History and Evolution of Family Medicine


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