Focusing Our Diversity Lens on IAFP


Among the joys of family medicine are the diversity of experiences we share and the diversity of the people we care for throughout our careers. Events over the past few years  illuminated how differences have led to exclusion and poor outcomes, when everyone should be included and celebrated. At every level and in every facet of our society, we are forced to reexamine our structures, our policies and our leadership.  We cannot be “colorblind” as that is clearly not the answer. We must face these issues with eyes, hearts, minds and leadership that are wide open and inclusive.

Recently, President-Elect Timothy Ott, DO, FAAFP and I represented our chapter at the Ten State Conference, which indeed includes ten states who gather to share best practices, discuss common topics and return home energized with a sense of comradery and some new ideas. I participated in a panel discussion on “Diversity in Chapter Leadership” and I would like to report back to you what I shared with our fellow chapters.

In Dec 2019, our Board Chair appointed a Diversity Task Force to examine all our programming and make priority recommendations and actions. Our Illinois Academy’s diversity policy states: “IAFP will support diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of its forms, recognizing that these require an enduring commitment that must find full expression in our organizational culture, values, activities and behaviors.”

To reflect the diversity in our membership, we must recruit and elect a diverse board of directors.  We have a Leadership Development Committee comprised of members diverse in age, gender, geography, and practice arrangement, who are not current board members.  They are charged with recruiting, reviewing and selecting nominees for our board. The LDC functions much like the nomination committee of a hospital. By selecting the candidates, they are essentially defining the opportunity for people to lead the organization.


How have we done in developing a diverse board of directors? 

Of our current 26 Board members, 
9 are men, 
8 are of Middle Eastern or Indian descent

1 is Black

1 is Latina
4 are osteopathic physicians
7 practice “downstate.”
Our Board is fairly young with approximately 2/3 of them in practice less than 15 years.

Unfortunately, none of our board members are in private practice and none are Black men.  Both of these categories are represented in other volunteer leadership activities within the academy and hopefully will be represented on the board soon. 


In what other avenues are we seeking more diversity? We continue to strive for better balance in our education programming speakers and faculty as an ongoing recruitment effort from the education committee and staff.  In addition, a question will be included in all new CME activity evaluations asking attendees if the program included or reflected diversity.  


One IAFP leadership development priority for many years has been to send an Illinois delegate for all the constituencies represented at the AAFP National Conference of Constituent Leadership. NCCL has five member constituencies who have a voice and a place at the leadership table:

  • Women
  • New Physicians 
  • Minority
  • IMG
  • LBGTQ+ and their physician allies

We have filled four of those slots and only the LGBTQ+ Delegate position remains to be filled. As a woman of Native American descent, I have served as the Minority Delegate several times and it’s been among the highlights of my Academy engagement.  As president, I can’t be a delegate this year as I will be representing you at the Annual Chapter Leadership Forum at that time.  

This is my call to Active IAFP members who identify as LGBTQ+ or a physician ally – check your calendar for April 28-30. If you would like to serve as the LGBTQ+ delegate to NCCL - Please email Jennifer O’Leary  by March 21st.  IAFP will pay for the Illinois delegates’ registration and reimburse up to $800 of the conference travel expenses.   At NCCL, the delegates will elect national officers, gain skills to be an effective leader, write academy policy, and meet others who share similar interests. Learn even more at the conference FAQ page.  


We still have much work to do. I will continue to keep you appraised of our progress. 

Contact Info:

Illinois Academy of Family Physicians

747 E. Boughton Road, Suite 253 - Bolingbook, IL 60440


[email protected]