This interview originally appeared in the spring edition of Minnesota Family Physician magazine.
Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) board member Daron Gersch, MD, FAAFP, of Avon, Minnesota, is running as a candidate for vice speaker for the 2022 American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Congress of Delegates. The election will happen this fall at the 2021 Congress of Delegates.
Gersch sees the role of vice speaker as ensuring that the will of the majority is enacted while the voice of the minority is heard and helping to shape and inspire the next generation of family doctors.
He has been a practicing rural family physician in Minnesota for more than 25 years and a long-time leader in the Minnesota chapter of the AAFP. Currently, Gersch practices at CentraCare – Long Prairie hospital.
“Daron is a respectful listener, thoughtful leader and works hard to set the right tone when chairing meetings. His valuable perspective will be a great asset to the AAFP Congress of Delegates. I hope you will join me in supporting Daron Gersch, MD, FAAFP, for vice speaker.”–Renée Crichlow, MD, FAAFP, MAFP Immediate Past President
We talked with Gersch about his campaign, leadership and parliamentary experiences and love of family medicine.
WHY ARE YOU THE RIGHT CANDIDATE?
Gersch: I enjoy working in groups to solve problems and find answers. I value diversity of thought and feel it’s critical to create a safe, open atmosphere to share perspectives, exchange ideas and find common ground. My experiences with the National Association of Parliamentarians and various leadership roles within the MAFP and AAFP, including chairing reference committees at the last two AAFP Congress of Delegates meetings, have helped prepare me for this position. I am ready to help family medicine move forward.
WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF VICE SPEAKER?
Gersch: The vice speaker works with the speaker in planning and conducting the annual Congress of Delegates meeting, provides parliamentary assistance to other groups that are meeting on behalf of the AAFP (like the National Conference for Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students), and makes sure that the actions of the Congress of Delegates are relayed to the AAFP Board of Directors for appropriate action and follow up.
This, to me, is one of the more important roles of the vice speaker—keeping the board on track with the wishes of the Congress of Delegates. I would be your voice on the board, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
SHARE ABOUT YOUR PAST LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCES.
Gersch: I have been blessed to serve in a variety of leadership roles.
- In organized family medicine, I began as the chair of our MAFP Legislative Committee. This led me to become president of my local chapter (the Central Chapter), then a board member, vice speaker, speaker, president-elect and president of the MAFP. After my year as MAFP president, I continued as an alternate delegate and delegate to the AAFP Congress of Delegates. Currently, I am treasurer of the MAFP and serve as the parliamentarian for our House of Delegates. Nationally, I have served on several committees, most recently as a reference committee chair with the AAFP Congress of Delegates.
- At my local hospital, I have served on the board of directors and as chief of staff. I have also been a hospice medical director, nursing home medical director and ER/trauma medical director.
- In my community of Albany, I was elected mayor and served as an adult leader for Cub/Boy Scouts for 20 years.
- In the Minnesota Army National Guard, I have been a captain and platoon and company leader.
All of these experiences have prepared me to organize and lead in a larger organization such as the AAFP.
HOW DOES MEMBERSHIP IN THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PARLIAMENTARIANS PREPARE YOU FOR THIS ROLE?
Gersch: The National Association of Parliamentarians teaches the principles and practice of democratic decision-making and how to effectively meet and make decisions in a fair, consistent manner while making good use of everyone’s time. To become a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians, I needed to pass a test on parliamentary procedures. Membership enables me access to courses and other resources, including how to ensure parliamentary procedures and rules are followed in online meetings. I’m currently in the process of becoming credentialed as a Registered Parliamentarian.
WHY DID YOU GO INTO FAMILY MEDICINE?
Gersch: For as long as I can remember, I have always liked science. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, I had several bad colds and was receiving shots of penicillin. My mom took me to a second doctor who felt my problems were from allergies. I was tested and was allergic to 63 of the 101 things tested. My life improved a ton after starting medication and treatments for my allergies. I remember thinking, “I hope I can make a difference in people’s lives like that doctor did for me.” In college, I briefly thought about other careers but always came back to medicine.
Going through my rotations in medical school, I enjoyed everything. I needed variety. I liked talking to people and getting to know them on a more personal level. Thus, a small-town, rural family doc was born.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU ABOUT FAMILY MEDICINE?
Gersch: My colleagues constantly amaze me! The incredible amount of knowledge and scope of practice provided by all of you is astounding. I TRULY feel, in my heart of hearts, that family medicine—and people who are willing to take the time to know their patients—is the key to addressing our health care problems.
Family medicine needs to continue on its path of comprehensive, individualized health care for all. We need to continue to position ourselves as the best specialty to provide that care.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU SEE FOR FAMILY MEDICINE?
Gersch: I think one challenge is going to be fighting against cookie cutter medicine that tries to fit everybody into one mold—this will fail! While I have no problem with guidelines, we have to be careful that those guidelines don’t become rules that are inflexible. Too many times, I have had tests and medicine declined for a patient because a guideline was being used as a rule. This must stop!
I also feel that we, as family physicians, need to be careful that we don’t give up too much of our “turf.” We need to be rounding in the hospitals, delivering babies and doing procedures. Otherwise, we risk getting squeezed out between the other specialties and advanced practice providers.This is a challenging time for medicine, but I believe family medicine is up for the challenge and will continue to grow.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY AND INTERESTS.
Gersch: This March, I had the joy of celebrating 30 years of marriage to Patti Gersch. She is my rock and foundation as well as my best friend. I would not be where I am without her support, love and guidance.
I have been blessed with three amazing children: Nick (28), Molly (25) and Anthony (21). It is a joy to watch them make their own ways in the world.
Along with spending time with my family, I enjoy reading, running, astronomy, fishing and playing my guitar.
DESCRIBE YOUR PARLIAMENTARY STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
Gersch: Unbiased. Helpful. Inclusive.
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Post author: Emie Buege, communications