I hope this note finds you well.
Since giving up my stethoscope for a laptop eight years ago, I have spent a good deal of my time writing and thinking about health and disease in our rural state.
Three years ago, I turned my attention to the history of the modern family medicine movement in Arkansas.
In the first half of the twentieth century, family medicine and rural health were given lip service and little else. Almost all attention and resources were aimed at technology and generating specialists. By the 1950s, the number of physicians in small towns as well as family physicians in large towns was dwindling. Attempts to change this imbalance had not been terribly effective.
In 1948, the Arkansas Academy of General Practice formed and the modern family medicine movement era began. The motto “For Every Family, A Family Doctor” became the new organization’s mantra. For the first ten years, the phrase was part of the state newsletter’s masthead. It was coined by Dr. Fount Richardson of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the editor of the newsletter, the 2nd president of the state organization and the 12th president of the national organization. The Academy was the first professional organization to require continuing education to stay certified and active (150 hours every three years).
I began my medical education in 1969, just at the point when the Academy changed its name to the Academy of Family Physicians. Along with continuing education requirements, board certification became a reality at that time. In the early 1970s, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock established a family practice residency. (I was then in the second year of the post-medical school residency.) It had been known for decades that young physicians often return to towns similar to where they were raised, and tend to practice close to where they are trained.
By 1974, Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) had opened in cities such as Jonesboro, Texarkana, Pine Bluff, El Dorado, Fayetteville, and Fort Smith. These programs have since placed large numbers of young doctors returning to small towns all around the state.
The Arkansas Academy is now in its seventy-fifth year of existence, and as a part of the celebration we have published a history of the Arkansas Academy of Family Physicians entitled For Every Family, A Family Doctor. The lion’s share of this history of the modern family medicine movement in Arkansas is told through the lives of the men and women who led the organization. All the profit from each book will be donated to the Arkansas AFP Foundation to act as seed money to endow ongoing scholarships for Family Medicine residents.
The official publication date will be April 25th, 2023. We will celebrate with a public reception and kickoff at 6:00 PM at Blue Heaven Restaurant, 15228 I-30, Benton, Arkansas. We cordially invite all those who can to attend.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me, Sam Taggart, at 501-773-7830, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can contact and purchase books at the Academy office:
Have a good journey,
Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/writer/marathon runner in practice in Benton for the last 45 years. He recently released Country Doctors of Arkansas, published by the Arkansas Times. His other books, The Public’s Health: A narrative history of health and disease in Arkansas, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices are available at your local booksellers or online at amazon.com.