Partnering from the beginning: AAFP and AAFP Foundation

The official partnership between Heart to Heart International (HHI) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation began in 1993. But, the true beginnings of the relationship predate even the founding of HHI.

In May 1991, a group of people traveled to what is now Belarus to assess the health effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. Two family physicians, Dr. Morsch (one of HHI’s founders) and Dr. Daniel Ostergaard (from the AAFP), were the only two physicians in the group. This trip served as the inspiration behind the first shipment of aid to the area, which ultimately led to the founding of HHI.

The Physicians With Heart program was then created by HHI, the AAFP, and the AAFP Foundation. The program sent its first planeload of medical aid to St. Petersburg and northwest Russia in 1993.

From 1993-2012 the Physicians With Heart program organized trips to 12 countries in the Newly Independent States (former Soviet countries) and to Vietnam. These trips brought pharmaceuticals, medical instruments and supplies, and family medicine medical education. Every delegation also included non-medical volunteers who participated in meaningful/rewarding service projects at places such as orphanages and elder-care facilities.

Ever since that first shipment of aid in 1993, the AAFP and the AAFP Foundation have supported the mission of HHI both financially and by deploying hundreds of physicians and non-medical volunteers in the aftermath of disasters and on volunteer service trips.

“The AAFP was instrumental in getting HHI the introductions and support from the major pharmaceutical companies that donate medicines and medical supplies in support of our mission,” said Steve Hower, Director of Corporate Relations for HHI. “The AAFP was also responsible for helping us establish volunteer service and training as part of the core values in the DNA of HHI.”

Here are some highlights of the partnership:

  • The HHI’s Physicians With Heart plane loaded with millions of dollars of medicine landed in 1995 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was the first American plane to land on Vietnamese soil since the Vietnam War had ended 20 years before. 
  • In the past two years, the AAFP and the AAFP Foundation have assembled almost 2,000 hygiene kits that have been distributed to Save the Children for the border crisis and to the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board to support tribal communities in New Mexico, southern Colorado, and west Texas.
  • The AAFP Foundation continues to run urgent fundraising campaigns raising thousands of dollars in financial support to HHI.
  • Most recently, through the generosity of family physician donors, the AAFP Foundation raised more than $100,000 from over 460 donors to provide financial support to HHI and International Medical Corps for their humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

We are immensely grateful for the support of the AAFP and the AAFP Foundation through the years and look forward to many years of future partnership.


Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 127,600 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits — that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care. To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP’s positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website,

The Foundation serves as the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Its mission is to advance family medicine through philanthropy, using humanitarian, educational, and scientific programming to improve health.