Wanda Filer attends to a younger patient. (Photo courtesy of
qualities that elevated Dr. Wanda Filer of York to the role
of president of the American Academy of Family Physicians
began to develop right here in the Sentinel-area.
who lived in the region for many years, assumed leadership
of the organization that represents 120,900 physicians and
medical students nationwide.
remember ‘‘Dr. Wanda’’ from her 18 years as a health
correspondent for WGAL-TV, an NBC affiliate in Lancaster.
After serving three years as a director on the AAFP Board,
the academy’s Congress of Delegates chose her as
president-elect a year prior to her becoming president.
She is the
daughter of Ray and Kay Price, who now live in Los Angeles, Calif.
According to Dr.
Robert Wergin of Nebraska, board chair of AAFP, Filer’s experience
in medicine, media and business suits her well for the president’s
“One of her true
strengths is her communication style and her ability to communicate
with anyone with clarity,” he said. “She’s very engaging and
respectful. She really views problems as a challenge.”
I want to do.’’ Filer attended Upper Dauphin Area schools from
second through seventh grade, then her family moved to the
Millersburg Area School District, where she graduated in 1977.
Her mother, at
that time an executive with Tressler Lutheran Services, helped
design the original Susquehanna Lutheran Village facility and at one
time served as its administrator.
remembers her parents working with Ray and Jean Deppen and
other area couples to create the Gratz Ambulance
Association. She and Deppen’s daughter, Mary, canvassed
campers at the Gratz Fairground on Labor Day weekends for
the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
some of that sense of service and that sense of volunteerism
began then,” Filer said.
Millersburg high school senior, Filer served as class
president, yearbook editor and president of the Careers in
Health Club. Through a school program, she spent 12 weeks
shadowing medical personnel at the Evelyn G. Frederick
Health Center. Through medical services to her family, she
came to appreciate the work of local physicians Richard
Stark and Henry Hottenstein.
area resident Dr. Wanda Filer is the current president of
the American Academy of Family Physicians. (Photo courtesy
of the AAFP)
Filer earned her
doctorate from Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, and completed
residency in family medicine at a New Jersey hospital, where she
served as chief resident.
“After I got
into general surgery, I was casting about in my head, trying to
think, what do I want to do,” she said. “I remembered Bill
Hakkarinen, one of the first physicians at Frederick (Health
Center), and I thought, that’s what I want to do.”
She continues as
a part-time physician at Family First Health, a York County health
center, and she founded Strategic Health Institute of York, a health
care consulting firm.
“What I love
about family medicine is the breadth of things I get to do,” Filer
said, noting she cares for all ages from newborns to those
approaching end of life.
“I can sew up
their lacerations and take off their toenails. I can manage their
diabetes and their heart attack. I love it,’’ she said.
The morning of
the phone interview for this article, four of the patients she saw
had been seeing her for 10 to 15 years.
“We have a
history, and I love that continuity, really getting to know people
when they’re celebrating and also when they’re hurting,” she said.
for ‘‘the family doctor.’’ According to Filer, family physicians
have faced several challenges in recent years because of a
fragmented health care system. They have not received payment in
line with specialists; therefore, many family practitioners have
trouble updating equipment and running offices.
Plus, an aging
population requires concentrated medical attention.
“There was a
period of time you had to see a patient every 10 to 15 minutes,” she
said. “We need the time. We need to be able to spend 30 to 45
minutes with a patient.”
And as she
advocates for family medicine with legislators, Filer is concerned
about the emphasis put upon electronic health records.
don’t like the idea of turning their back on a patient to work on
the computer,” she said. “How do we make this a tool rather than an
end in and of itself?”
As she seeks to
elevate the value of family physicians, one of Filer’s goals is to
promote prevention and wellness.
rates are starting to improve,” she noted.
family medicine ranks third in terms of physicians showing symptoms
of burnout, so as AAFP president, Filer hopes to stimulate
conversation about the stress doctors experience.
“How do we do a
better job of supporting one another while advocating to insurance
companies and the government?” she asked.
Another of her
goals is to relieve doctors from activities that do not add value to
the patient/physician relationship.
starting to listen to the idea that a family physician’s number one
job that we want to be doing is taking care of patients,” she said.
style is very good.’’ What drives this woman who is on the road
200 to 250 days a year promoting the cause of family medicine?
Starbucks?” she said laughing. “I enjoy what I do. I love the idea
of continuous learning, which this job definitely lets me do. I
never like to be bored. I also love to travel.”
week, Filer started in Florida and ended in Texas.
“I get the
chance to work with really motivated colleagues who are out there
trying to make the world better,” she said. “That resonates with
earlier she had met with the surgeon general of the United States
and had done an interview on National Public Radio. In October, she
shook hands with President Obama at a conference on drug use.
Her husband, Dr.
Robert Filer, a fertility specialist, often travels with her.
through every continent so far except South America and Antarctica,”
For the last
year, Wergin (then president of AAFP), Wanda Filer and the board
chair so often traveled together to work on advocacy and political
issues that they were called “the three presidents.”
“One thing Wanda
has done is aligning well with our like organizations, such as the
American College of Physicians,” Wergin said. “Wanda’s style is very
good. That’s where your communication skills come in, and that’s a
strength Wanda has.”
credited Filer for showing an optimistic attitude, innovative
thinking and “cheerful persistence” as the AAFP deals with academic
challenges as well as physicians’ training and workplace issues.
“It’s easy to
get discouraged. She doesn’t see things that way,” he said. “She . .
. keeps a positive outlook and moves forward. Her cheerful
persistence usually wins people over.”
for learning motivated her to complete an MBA program at Penn State
University in 2009, and she serves on the board of York Traditions
Bank, a position that helps her understand economics.
“I love to see
that big picture of how you push here and this happens over there,”
out-of-the box thinker.’’ Michael Kochenour, board chairman and CEO
of York Traditions Bank, called Filer an entrepreneur with a
commitment to good governance. Both were founding board members of
the bank in 2002.
“She’s been a
tremendous asset for the bank and is a very engaged, successful
leader for our board,” he said. “She has impeccable integrity and
truly values people, honesty, respect and trust. She is certainly a
champion for those.”
Kochenour, Filer’s foresight and engagement helps organizations
enthusiastic,” he said. “She’s an out-of-the-box thinker. We have
just been a major benefactor of all the qualities she brings.”
And Filer also
gives back to the community.
“She has been
involved in York Little Theater,” Kochenour said. (Her husband) Bob
is involved in leadership and performing. They were co-chairs of
their capital campaign. It’s just an example of (professional
leadership) giving back.”
Says don’t fear
leadership. According to Filer, her father once told her, “Leave the
world a better place.”
“I watched both
of them – my dad and mom – do exactly that,” she said. “I feel as
though I want to continue to learn, I want to continue to serve and
I want to be a change agent for the community, the commonwealth and
for the country. And if I get to have some fun and travel along the
way, that’s a perk.”
daughters are now 25 and 27; one lives New York City, and the other
attends a Maryland college.
Filer sends to Sentinel-area young people is to look for open doors
and walk through them.
growing up, there is a great foundation, but the world is much
bigger,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to go out to explore it.”
Filer, the country needs everyone working at the top of their game.
“We need people
to accept service and leadership and not be afraid of it,” she said.
“Look at it as a gift. Get outside your own circumstances and
explore, because you’ll be amazed at what you can
career as a physician and now as an advocate for AAFP, Filer has
done just that.
Pennsylvania is lucky to have her,” Wergin said. “She’s not average,
I can tell you that. She is a wonderful person and a great leader.”