Mi Gente

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Edgar Figueroa, MD, MPH

I work as a solo-practice student health director at a target school (a medical school that lacks a department of family medicine). I’m located in a major metropolis and work at a very large academic/research medical center. Admittedly it feels a bit odd, then, to be invited to write a post on The Path We Took to leadership within academic family medicine, but STFM serves as my academic home, and being a part of this great organization has allowed me to find my people.

I won’t lie—I have a pretty good job providing direct care to a special patient population while managing to maintain work-life balance. There are drawbacks—my scope of practice has narrowed and I probably have forgotten a lot more than I realize; I’m not part of a department of family medicine and miss the rich exchanges that come from curbsiding a colleague or sitting in a faculty meeting; I don’t have residents on site to educate and learn from and medical school accreditation rules prohibit me from participating in the education of medical students at my institution. Lastly, the job can get pretty lonely. STFM has been invaluable in filling in the gaps.

I was a member of STFM as a resident but never attended an Annual Spring Conference until the first year of my faculty development fellowship. At that meeting, I led one of my first academic presentations, but more importantly got to connect with the most black and Latinx physicians I’ve ever encountered anywhere outside of a National Hispanic Medical Association or Student National Medical Association meeting.

And these were all family medicine educators—mi gente (my people)! I was hooked and have attended every STFM Annual Spring Conference ever since 2004.

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One of Those Kids in That Class Is Me and They Deserve a Chance

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Renee Crichlow, MD

In the last couple of years, I have been a co-teacher in an undergraduate program part of whose mission is to increase underrepresented in medicine (URM) students in our medical school. There are many reasons I have chosen to do this and to fully understand, I thought it would be important to share a little bit of my student career history.

To begin, nothing in here is about bragging. It’s really about sharing a story that may be similar to what others have seen.

My high school was a very high performing public school: we had 13 National Merit Scholars in the year I graduated, and I was one of them. (Except at that time in 1985 my award was called National Merit Outstanding Negro Scholar. I’m not joking. That’s exactly what it was called in 1985.) I mention this because it’s an indication of the fact that I would have been considered a very high-capacity, high-potential performer for college.

For many reasons that I won’t go into, there was no family support for me either financially or socially to enter college. So I found a way to get to college by myself. Eventually, I decided to stay in the town that I grew up in and went to school at Oklahoma University.

In order to afford food and books, I had to work night shifts at Hardee’s, closing the restaurant quite late. I didn’t have a car so if my friend couldn’t pick me up I walked back to campus. I worked multiple nights each week and carried a full credit load. I would say my grades there were mediocre at best. By the end of the first semester, it was clear to me that I was very bored staying in the same town that I grew up in. I went to the large pile of brochures that I’d been sent after winning National Merit Outstanding Negro Scholar award and I chose to apply to Boston University because it had rolling admissions and would accept me based on my ACT and SAT scores alone as my GPA was not very impressive. I ended the year with about a 3.2.

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Saying Yes Purposefully

Jeff Haney, MD

Jeffrey Haney, MD

It’s on your development plan, it’s one of your New Year’s resolutions, or maybe it’s written on last year’s annual faculty review: “You need to learn how to say no.”

Many of us spend decades practicing self-flagellation for not learning to say no. Consider yourself liberated from this tyranny. Don’t learn to say no. Learn to say yes with purpose.

This idea, saying yes, is not unique—it is all the rage. Oprah swears by it. The Huffington Post has a long-form article on the subject. Even the TV titan, Shonda Rhimes, devoted a TED Talk to the subject. The consistent argument for saying yes—the adventure, rising to a new challenge, learning new things—tickles the carpe diem recesses of our brain. On the surface, saying yes makes sense, but not in isolation. We are aware of the ridiculousness of always saying yes— I am currently picturing my child asking me if he can eat candy for dinner every night this week. So how should we say yes?  

An annual faculty review provided the “Aha!” moment. During the review, I appreciated a faculty member’s willingness to jump in and always say yes. In the next breath, I appreciated her capacity to be clear about her boundaries and engagement in important work of the residency. The next moment was subsumed by my cognitive dissonance—the faculty member always seeming to say yes, possessed a clear set of boundaries. In the haze of thought, I heard myself say, “you are wonderful at saying yes, with purpose!”  I am unsure if it was her conscious practice, but it was a modeled behavior to share to the world.

Saying yes, with a purpose. In saying yes to opportunity tied to purpose, the results are clear and achievable. When the opportunity is not tied to purpose, it can become a vague promise difficult to keep going and nearly impossible to fulfill. The beauty of saying yes with purpose is that it obviates the need to learn how to say no.