The fifty-year old story of the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians is one of commitment and caring. For five decades, physicians who believed that providing medical care to the whole family and the whole person was the bedrock of the American health care system accepted the challenge of the Academy to promote excellence in health care for the betterment of the American people.
In order to accomplish this, the American Academy and its state chapters such as the Connecticut Academy required that its members complete 150 hours of approved postgraduate education in order to remain members in good standing. This strong and meaningful postgraduate education requirement insured that members of the Academy would be asked to maintain a level of competency unheard of among medical associations. Many thought that the requirement would be a deathnell of the national Academy, but instead, it proved to be the strength of the organization and the concept of educational requirements has now been copied by almost every other professional society including the American Medical Association.
The early years of the Academy — from 1948 to 1958 — were difficult, yet exciting years. Dr. Michael S. Shea of New Haven, the first president of the Connecticut Academy of General Practice, was the father with the firm hand that kept the organization going during its first decade. Dr. Shea, as well as other early presidents such as Dr. Michael Palmieri, Dr. Peter Scafarello and Dr. John Kilgus, provided the first “C” in the History in the Academy — Commitment. It was not fashionable in the early 1950s to be a general practitioner in Connecticut. Specialization had washed ashore after World War II, and medical schools were committed to producing a physician who specialized in one body organ as opposed to treating the entire patient. Extensive residency training in the specialized area became the norm, and hospitals became enamored with the thought of a medical staff made up of specialists in every area of medical care. It was becoming more and more difficult for general practitioners to obtain hospital privileges and to be allowed to practice medicine based on their training and experience.
The physicians mentioned earlier, as well as Dr. Ed Connors, Dr. Julius Grower, Dr. Jacques VanVoris, Dr. Rudy Damiani, and Dr. Harold Von Glahn provided the inspirational leadership which allowed the young Academy to say “no” to the organizations which tried to limit general practice. Successes were few at the beginning, but the message which these individuals sent to the rest of the profession was compelling enough to prove to everyone that general practice was here to stay and that the Academy would be a force to be reckoned within the coming years.
The mantle of leadership was passed to Dr. Richard Elgosin and Dr. D. Norman Markley in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Board of Directors held meetings at the “Elgosin Round Table” in Hamden for seven years. The debates around that table were many and those leaders set the policies which still are the foundation of the Academy four decades later. Dr. Elgosin, who passed away in 1993, provided much of the written early history which has been included in this article. Together, Dr. Elgosin and Dr. Markley led the fight to hire an executive office so that the Academy could move on to bigger and better things in 1958. In his notes, Dr. Elgosin wrote, “Even as Dr. Shea held the Academy together during the earliest years, the one man responsible for pointing the Academy in a new direction, including the appointment of an Executive Director, was Norman Markley. “His stubborn determination,” Dr. Elgosin said, “to improve the CAGP in any way possible and in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds became the clarion call of this professional society.”
The Academy began to influence legislation at the Connecticut General Assembly because one of its members, Dr. C. John Satti, was a former Secretary of State in Connecticut. When he appeared at the Capitol to testify on medical issues for the Academy, the members of the legislature accepted him as one of their own. He, therefore, must be credited with beginning a history of legislative accomplishment unparalled by a state specialty medical society.
In the early 1960s the combination of an Academy leadership team making policy decisions implemented by an efficient and hardworking staff led to the development of an endowment fund to support medical school students who needed scholarship assistance, varied statewide continuing education programs, the development of the Core Content Review of Family Medicine and the monitoring of all medical economics issues, especially those of third party payers, to ensure the ecomonic vitality of general practice. Leaders such as Drs. Frank Northman, Bruce Valentine, Bill Pasquariello, Frank Gallo, Leo Giardi, and Ed Felder were included in this dynamic team.
The modern era of the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians began with the decision to change the name of the American Academy of General Practice to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Connecticut was one of the first state chapters to approve this action and was also one of the first three state chapters to approve the establishment of the American Board of Family Practice. These important actions by the AAFP Board and the CAFP Board took place in the early 1970s. Yet, leaders such as Dr. Ted Safford, Dr. Ed Felder, Dr. Fred Barrett and Dr. Marjorie Pernell knew that as long as Yale was the only medical school in Connecticut, family practice would never achieve its rightful place in the medical community. For this reason the Academy lent its strongest legislative support in the 1960s and early 1970s to the approval of a medical school at the University of Connecticut and for the allocation of special funding for the Department of Family Practice at this school. Hand-in-hand with its multi-faceted continuing medical education programs such as the Scientific Symposium and the now nationally-acclaimed Core Content Review, the Academy began promoting research activities in family medicine, and developed a family medicine interest group at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine providing students with role models and practical information on the specialty of family medicine. It encouraged family practice residents at the various hospitals in Connecticut to establish practices in Connecticut so as to insure an ongoing supply of qualified family physicians for the people of this state.
The Academy developed liaisons with a number of state chapters, both in the Mid-West and in the East. We became permanent members of the Ten State Conference, which was a regional educational meeting of Eastern and Midwestern chapters of the AAFP, a conference which is still held annually today. Connecticut also joined with New York State to organize a Region One Meeting – New England and Mid-Atlantic states – to discuss issues of importance to these chapters which would be discussed and voted on in the Congress of Delegates of the American Academy of Family Physicians. And while this was going on, the CAFP continued to expand its services to its members. In the 1980s, a Long-Range Planning Session was held and as a result the Academy expanded its legislative activities and decided to encourage some of its outstanding members to seek leadership positions within the American Academy of Family Physicians. Connecticut was also one of the first state chapters to name residents and student members to its Board of Directors. Also in 1980, the official publication of the Academy was renamed CONNECTICUT FAMILY PHYSICIAN, and on three occasions this publication was named an award winning chapter publication by the American Academy of Family Physicians. In an effort to insure that the membership of the Academy was well informed on the key issuses in a changing medical environment, the Board of Directors in late 1980 decided to publish monthly Board Reports for distribution to the entire membership. It also became obvious that with the explosion of medical information, it was necessary to expand our educational efforts and the Scientific Symposium was expanded to two full days of outstanding medical education.
In the late 1980s, the Academy ran a successful campaign to elect Dr. Joseph Czarsty to the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians, thus making Dr. Czarsty the first Connecticut Academy member elected to high office in the national Academy. In the third year of his three-year term, Dr. Czarsty was honored by his fellow Directors when he was named Chair of the AAFP Board of Directors. Connecticut then ran an enthusiastic campaign to elect Dr. Czarsty President of the AAFP, and although the campaign was a memorable one, the effort fell short. Inspite of this, the Board of Directors of the American Academy did not want to lose Dr. Czarsty’s leadership, so it named him to a five-year term as AAFP Treasurer. As his impressive run of eight consecutive years in leadership for AAFP came to a close, Dr. Czarsty urged the Connecticut Academy Board to select other people to run for national office so as to continue Connecticut’s contribution to family practice policymaking. There were many outstanding leaders such as Dr. Thomas Cronan, Dr. Dewees Brown, Dr. Arthur Keefe, Dr. Neil Brooks, Dr. Stephen O’Brien and Dr. Donald Timmerman who had provided such dynamic leadership to the Connecticut Academy that they were possible candidates for AAFP office.
In 1992, the Board decided to run Dr. Neil Brooks for the position of Vice Speaker of the Congress of Delegates of AAFP. There was no question that Dr. Brooks was an underdog, running against a well-known member of the Congress from a large Mid-western state. The brilliance of Dr. Brooks’ performance during the election campaign, supported by a dynamic group of Connecticut Academy members who hosted one of the most exciting hospitality suites in the recent history of the AAFP, catapulted Dr. Brooks to victory. He was then elected Speaker the following year and won an exciting race for President-elect in 1996. He served as the 50th President of the American Academy of Family Physician from September 1997 to September 1998.
The Connecticut Academy continues its proud tradition of educational excellence and dynamic leadership throughout the 1990s. The Core Content Review is now utilized by over 7,000 physicians from the United States and Canada. For many, it is their primary source of continuing medical education and has proven to be the best preparatory vehicle for the Family Practice Board recertification examination. Because of the changing medical environment and the impact of health maintenance organizations on medical practice, the Academy recently named a special ad hoc committee to study all scope of practice issues and to monitor reimbursement under managed care. The Academy’s first membership directory was published and the CAFP sponsored a state-wide leadership conference, a resident and student conference, and conducted an important Needs Assessment Survey.
The Academy Executive Office is headed by Mark R. Schuman, the Executive Vice President. Other staff members include: Mary Yokose, Associate Executive Vice President, Melissa Dempsey, Director of Government Relations; Kirsten Longley, Executive Assistant and Arthur N. Schuman, the former Executive Vice President who has compiled an impressive forty-year record of service to the Academy. He was named an honorary member in 1993, the only person to receive this special designation in the first 50 years of the Academy’s existence. What the Academy is today is due in part to the efforts of these hardworking individuals.
A highlight of the Academy occurred on September 26, 1998, when the Connecticut Academy held a 50th Anniversary Dinner Dance attended by 230 people. On this occasion the Academy honored 13 individuals as “Superheroes of Family Medicine”. These individuals were selected because of their contributions to the Academy and family medicine as well as to their community and the patients they serve. These “superheroes” for the first 50 years of the Academy were: Frederick C. Barrrett, Norwich; Neil H. Brooks, Rockville; Craig W. Czarsty, Oakville; Joseph C. Czarsty, Oakville; Michael Good, Middletown; Charlene Li, Windsor; D. Norman Markley, West Hartford; Stephen O’Brien, Enfield; James Perlotto, North Guilford; Theodore Safford, Ridgefield; Arthur Schuman, West Hartford; Felix Sheehan, Middletown; and Evan Whalley, Waterbury.
The Connecticut Academy and the American Academy continue to experience good times. Over the past ten years, the membership in the American Academy of Family Physicians has grown so rapidly as to make the Academy one of the largest medical societies in the world. With the support of an involved leadership including such people as Drs. Ayaz Madraswalla, Stephen O’Brien, Drew Edwards, Roy Zagieboylo, David Howlett, Charlene Li, Craig Czarsty and Donald Timmerman, the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians will continue to offer its members valuable services to assist them in developing professionally-gratifying careers and to meet the exciting challenge of providing the people of Connecticut with the highest quality of care with caring. The commitment of the Academy is as strong today as it was in 1948 and as we look back, we realize what a glorious 50 years the Academy has had. The challenges of the future represent a great opportunity, the resolve of the Academy is firm and the rewards will be many.