For Overland Park family doctor, role leading nation’s largest specialty organization doesn’t take him far from home

Michael Munger, MD, is the recently seated president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the largest medical specialty society in the country.

As a resident in family medicine in the mid-1980s, Michael Munger’s mentor was a man who stressed the need for physicians to work for the good of the profession outside their clinic walls. That mentor, Jack Stelmach, MD, had served a term as president of the American Academy of Family Physicians from 1978 to 1979, and encouraged his protégés to find a way to get involved in shaping the future of family medicine themselves.

“He just really drilled into all of us that we owed something to our specialty to give back, be involved, be a spokesman,” said Munger.

Munger took that advice to heart. And as of last month, he’s following directly in Stelmach’s footsteps.

After decades of being involved in family medicine societies at the local and state levels, Munger assumed the presidency of the AAFP at the organization’s annual conference last month. In the role, he’ll be the primary face of the largest medical specialty society in the country, serving more than 120,000 family medicine doctors, residents and students.

It’s a weighty and time consuming role. But Munger has an advantage that only Stelmach among the approximately 80 past presidents of the organization has enjoyed. With the AAFP’s national headquarters located just south of I-435 on Tomahawk Creek Parkway in Leawood, Munger never has to travel far to tend to his duties as president. Since April, he’s been practicing at the St. Luke’s Health System clinic at Mission Farms, less than a mile from the AAFP offices. In fact, home isn’t far, either. He’s lived in northern Overland Park for nearly 30 years.

Though he has cut back on the amount of time he spends at the practice to accommodate his responsibilities with the AAFP, he still sees patients regularly.

“There are travel days that another president or president elect would have to worry about that I don’t,” he said. “I can spend half a day [at the AAFP offices] at meetings and then hop down the street and be at the clinic.”

Munger said he expects the AAFP to focus on healthcare reform, particularly as it relates to billing and payment, in the coming year.

“Our members are telling us they need help with administrative complexity and prior authorizations,” he said. “They need help with all the coding and billing requirements and documentation. And they really want payment reform.”

Munger said Johnson County will be serving as a staging ground for a good deal of the national discussion on the future of the healthcare system in the coming months.

“We are the largest single specialty organization, and it’s right here in Johnson County,” he said. “Primary care is really expected to lead in healthcare reform, and we’re ready to do it.”