Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. – Albert Einstein
This month we proudly salute the 60th birthday of the flagship scientific journal of Australian general practice. Australian Family Physician (AFP) was born in 1956 as the Annals of General Practice. This was a time of excitement as Australians celebrated a ‘coming of age’ and new-found independence. The first summer Olympics in the southern hemisphere, and first outside Europe or North America, arrived in Melbourne. Television transmission commenced.
General practitioners (GPs) in Australia and Britain in the 1950s sensed an opportune time to create a separate identity from other medical specialties. In 1951, Fraser Rose and John Hunt published a letter in the British Medical Journal outlining their proposal for the establishment of a college for GPs, a critical step in the creation of the College of General Practitioners in 1952.1 With a significant number of Australians as members, state-based faculties of the British college were then established in Australia. In 1958 these joined together to create the Australian College of General Practitioners and, on receiving the royal charter in 1969, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
In the midst of the RACGP’s foundation period, the first edition of the Annals of General Practice was released in September 1956 as a quarterly publication, with Dr Carl Gunther as inaugural editor. At the outset, it was noted that content ‘will be selected for their general practitioner interest’.2 The first edition included clinical articles on congenital heart disease and infective hepatitis, as well as medical news. This quarterly publication expanded in size through the 1960s to over 50 pages per edition. By 1969, with the journal increasingly supporting the heart of Australian general practice, the RACGP moved to an expanded scope, content, page size and number of editions per year. This culminated in the birth of AFP in February 1972, with Dr Wes Fab as editor.
The name change reflected the worldwide momentum of the era for GPs to claim ownership of primary healthcare as a separate discipline from other branches of medicine. AFP expanded on Annals of General Practice with increased emphasis on original, scientific and educational content. The move was timely, with AFP able to support the arrival of the first formal training program for GPs, the Family Medicine Program, established through Australian Government funding in 1973.
Since then, AFP has moved from strength to strength as a strategic facilitator for the ongoing scientific development of general practice as a distinct medical specialty. In particular, AFP focuses on original material that considers the best international evidence and crystalises this information to be relevant and appropriate for the Australian context. AFP remains a major educational resource for primary healthcare at all levels of experience, providing contemporary information that helps contextualise important advances in our discipline. AFP continues to support and nurture general practice research by providing a key venue for publication and dissemination of findings, illustrated through a personal reflection by Winzenberg.3
Since its inception, a key guiding principle for AFP has been to support and improve the health and wellbeing of our patients. To illustrate some of the changes in contemporary practice that AFP has documented across the years, this month we include a paper from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) team that highlights aspects of this evolution.4 With the doctor–patient interaction a fundamental role in general practice, we include a paper by Stevens exploring the development of the medical gaze.5 Highlighting the change in practice logistics incorporating a decline in house calls by GPs, Dammery provides a historical perspective of the doctor’s bag.6
Finally, the AFP team would like to thank our readership and enthusiasts across the decades. With your encouragement and support, we look forward to continuing to support the evolving face of Australian general practice in the decades to come.
Stephen A Margolis MBBS, MFM, MD, GEM, DRANZCOG, FRACGP, FACRRM, is the Senior Medical Editor of AFP; Professor, School of Medicine, Griffith University, Queensland; and Medical Officer with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Please refer to the PDF download to view a timeline of the evolution of AFP