Incoming STFM President Linda Myerholtz, PhD Sits Down for a Conversation With STFM

As the 2021-2022 term comes to a close, we sat down with incoming STFM President Linda Myerholtz, PhD to learn about her journey into family medicine education and her plans as President of the STFM Board of Directors.

"I'm proud and humbled to represent the STFM membership as president. My passion for interprofessional team-based education and practice promotes system change and supports wellbeing within the graduate medical education structure. The journey to family medicine education is exhilarating and exhausting. What I most look forward to, though, is continuing to foster connections among our members." - Linda Myerholtz, PhD
“I’m proud and humbled to represent the STFM membership as president. My passion for interprofessional team-based education and practice promotes system change and supports wellbeing within the graduate medical education structure. The journey to family medicine education is exhilarating and exhausting. What I most look forward to, though, is continuing to foster connections among our members.” – Linda Myerholtz, PhD

Linda Myerholtz, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of Behavioral Science Education at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill start her term as STFM President during the 2022 STFM Annual Spring Conference. She brings with her a passion for human behavior, building community, and integrated healthcare.

Growing up as a “professor’s kid”, Myerholtz was born in Caracas, Venezuela. “My father was working for a company at the time, though I have no memory of living in South America. Our family moved back to the US when I was 6 months old, and landed in Racine, Wisconsin.” Myerholtz explained. “I spent my early childhood in Wisconsin, before we moved to Bowling Green, Ohio when I was 14. There was quite a bit of culture shock going from a big city like Milwaukee to a very small town, where I could see cornfields growing from my bedroom window.”

Myerholtz began to love the rural, small town university life, and went on to complete her undergraduate and graduate work at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. “I married my husband and we started our family. The winters were long and gray, and we dreamed of moving further south.”

When asked if she always knew medicine was the career for her, Myerholtz said “I’m not sure why, as I lived in the middle of the Midwest far away from any beach or ocean, but as a child, I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I loved biology, and it sounded exciting. When I took Introduction to Psychology my freshman year, I was fascinated about human behavior, and I knew this was my career path.” Myerholtz went on to give a shout out to her professor, Dr Stone, proving the impact good educators have on young minds beginning their academic medicine journey.

As Myerholtz’s career took off in community mental health, she moved into more administrative roles, but continued providing training for graduate psychology interns. “This brought me so much joy, and there were a few STFM members who trained with me at the same time.” While this passion for working with marginalized individuals continued to grow, the administrative aspects pulled Myerholtz away from the more enjoyable parts of her work, namely clinical care, teaching, program development, and research.

“One day, I saw a posting in my inbox for a position as a Director of Behavioral Science in a family medicine residency program [Mercy Family Medicine in Toledo, Ohio]. I was enticed by the opportunity to teach bright young adults who shared my passion in making communities healthier and the opportunity to resume my research and practice integrated behavioral healthcare. When I first started at Mercy, I couldn’t tell you much about medical education or what it was like to be a resident, but the residents taught me and I felt like I really found my passion.”

That passion resulted in Myerholtz’s ability to work closely with different learners and fellow faculty. “Each day is different,” she went on to explain. “We’re always reflecting on how we can continue to improve the wellbeing of our communities through the practice of family medicine – what could be better?”

Myerholtz is quick to mention lessons abound in family medicine education, but there is one that has stuck with her. “Be kind to your future self. As you reflect on your past self, do so with compassion,” she explained. The first part helps me prioritize and reminds me to make decisions today that support myself in the future. The second part reminds me not to judge my past self, based on the knowledge and the wisdom I have today. Past decisions and mistakes are a part of being human, and we need to offer compassion for the person we were when those things happened.”

While her career progressed, Myerholtz’s dream to move her family further south was solidified when she accepted a position with the University of North Carolina. “Being a behavioral scientist in graduate medical education is truly a dream job, and it’s been fantastic living in North Carolina. We still get the change of seasons, but the winter is much shorter! We can go hiking in the mountains, relax at the beach, and explore great restaurants and cultural gems.”

As she prepares to be installed as STFM President, Myerholtz looks forward to bringing that passion for wellbeing to STFM members. “I’m proud and humbled to represent the STFM membership as president. My passion for interprofessional team-based education and practice promotes system change and supports wellbeing within the graduate medical education structure. The journey to family medicine education is exhilarating and exhausting,” she explained. “What I most look forward to, though, is continuing to foster connections among our members. I’m so excited we will be able to renew collaborations together at our Annual Conference in Indianapolis. Connection is what makes STFM so exceptional,” she continued. “None of us can do this alone, nor do we have to reinvent the wheel. Through STFM, we come together to make the wheel even better.”

Part of improving that wheel comes from the utilization of STFM resources. “As I reflected on what I’ve used most, the list continued to grow. I was fortunate to participate in the first class of the Behavioral Science Family Systems Educator Fellowship, and this was pivotal in my career. I found so many collaborative relationships and true friendships. I also utilize the STFM Resource Library frequently to gain inspiration from other excellent educators. I’ve learned so much from our Collaboratives – being able to reach out to a Listserv of amazing colleagues when I have a question is so incredibly valuable. Whether through fellowships, collaboratives, toolkits, certificate programs, or the resource library, STFM allows us to connect with each other and share our learning, with the ultimate goal of transforming family medicine education and the health of our communities.”

When she’s not revolutionizing family medicine education and empowering marginalized communities, Myerholtz finds joy with her family. “While my career has brought me a strong sense of accomplishment, I’m most proud of the adults my children have become. Raising three human beings who are living the values that are important to me… kindness, compassion for others, generosity, a commitment to social justice, valuing diversity… it fills my heart. Watching them go out into the world, knowing they make the world a better place now, and for future generations, is a tremendous joy.”

That love for her family extends to acting as a personal travel guide for their adventures. “Planning the trip is about enhancing the joy while practicing delayed gratification.”

STFM and its members will benefit immensely from Myerholtz’s leadership, experience, compassion, and drive. We welcome her to the Board of Directors for the 2022-2023 year.

Time Management Tips for the Busiest Time of Year

As we swing into the holiday season amidst an ongoing global pandemic, Cathy MacLean, MD, CCFP, FCFP, MBA shares tips and tricks for time management during the busiest part of the year.

One of my most embarrassing moments in a workshop about time management was to confess I owned the worthwhile book First Things First by Stephen Covey, even though I never had the time to read it. Here are some lessons learned throughout my career as a family physician:

1. Clinically, do today’s work today. Finish your tasks, consults, and notes as you go, avoiding a big pile-up later.

2. “Book it, or it won’t get done”. Avoid missed meetings and deadlines by booking everything in the calendar platform of your choice, including reading, writing, research, meetings, calls, travel, walking breaks, and even phone calls to mom.

3. Work when it calls to you. If it brings you joy, enjoy your work, and don’t beat yourself up for working when you want to work.

4. Create action-oriented meetings. By the end of every meeting, know who is going to do what and by when, and then schedule the time to get things done – see lesson #2.

5. Acknowledge that saying “yes” to something means “no” to something else. Move your life, job, and project in the direction you want it to go, by saying yes to the things that are important to you while managing your time effectively.

6. Take inventory of your responsibilities. Talk with others to ensure you have dedicated time to accomplish your responsibilities if your plate is becoming unmanageable.

7. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Do work geared toward your training and expertise, and let others work to the top of their scope. Whether it’s looping in a clinical pharmacist, allowing your administrative team to do the scheduling, or allowing your team of residents to take ownership of their work, share the load with your team.

8. Schedule “you” time. Whether catching up on sleep, working from home, taking a walk, collecting deliverables, or working on larger projects, “you time” is yours to do with what you wish.

9. Enroll in project management classes. Learn all kinds of efficient and effective ways to accomplish projects, allowing you to learn new ways to best utilize your time.

10. Lists are your friend. Create a visual reminder using lists until a project is complete. When finished remove the task from your list with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment.

11. Utilize the time you have efficiently. Work on your laptop or accomplish other tasks during a time you otherwise might not use to your benefit, such as when traveling.

12. Take full advantage of computer technology. Use your computer software to its fullest functionality. Outlook, Google Drive, and other cloud-based software help you manage emails, share documents, and work more efficiently.

13. Early mornings can be valuable. Start your day early to ensure the day runs smoothly, taking the time to have everything ready to go for patients in advance of their visit, allows you to focus on patient care.

14. Create clinical kits. Be prepared for clinic visits, contraceptive counselling, asthma care, COPD management and more with custom supply boxes filled with your favorite tools and tricks.

15. Hire contractors. Free up time otherwise spent with house-related chores by hiring students, residents, and other part-time workers for errands and house-related tasks.

16. Set realistic deadlines. Avoid disappointing yourself and others by measuring and managing your time proactively, so you can meet deadlines easily.

Feel free to share your own time management tools and tricks in the comments section below.

Working for Health Equity –Together

By Lloyd Michener, MD

Family medicine groups have responded wonderfully to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing critical clinical services, and helping staff testing and vaccination sites. As COVID-19 underscored the depth of the disparities across our states and communities, family physicians have also taken on local and national leadership roles in health equity efforts, efforts to achieve health equity are now expanding rapidly, and the approaches and even the language used are changing as well.

As a particularly horrific example, a new report from the US Civil Rights Commission calls for equity in maternal health, noting that Black women in the United States are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women in the United States. The report calls for coordinated prenatal, maternity, delivery, and postpartum care that manages chronic illness and optimizes health, and points out the role that states can play in supporting equitable health, including Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Maternal health equity is an opportunity for family medicine, partnering with our health systems, our communities, and our states, to make a difference.

At the same time, academic health centers (AHCs) are increasingly engaged in health equity efforts, seeking to build and strengthen community partnerships for health. As David Skorton, CEO for the Association of American Medical Colleges, stated:

“the traditional tripartite mission of academic medicine — medical education, clinical care, and research — is no longer enough to achieve health justice for all. Today, collaborating with diverse communities deserves equal weight among academic medicine’s missions. This means going beyond “delivering care” to establishing and expanding ongoing, two-way community dialogues that push the envelope of what is possible in service to what is needed.

It means working with community-based organizations in true partnership to identify and address needs, and jointly develop, test, and implement solutions. This requires bringing medical care and public/population health concepts together and addressing upstream fundamental causes of health inequities.”

https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=9000&issue=00000&article=96573&type=Abstract

This is a new challenge for many AHCs, and a place in which family medicine can make a much-appreciated difference. A private, research-intensive school headlined such an example:

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic forced positive changes in how medicine is practiced in communities and at academic medical centers, with family medicine departments working at the front lines to provide care and forge relationships with community partners, according to a Duke Health review.

https://corporate.dukehealth.org/news/pandemic-response-shows-path-improved-health-care-future?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=The%20pandemic%20shows%20a%20path%20toward%20a%20better%20health%20care%20future&utm_campaign=dukedaily2021_09_20

As these partnerships grow, the language shifts. Family medicine is growing accustomed to the idea that we have a role in the ‘social determinants of health,” while community organizations may use a broader, more positive framing of the “vital conditions of health” which is inclusive of the intersections of health and safety, work, transportation, education, civic muscle, housing, and the environment. Family practices can have important roles in this larger effort, both as trusted sources of care and information, as one of the community hubs that link individuals and families to needed services, and as respected advocates for needed policy change so that all communities have the opportunity to thrive.

Guidance on how to partner and support community health equity is increasingly available, including, to cite just a few:

It is noteworthy that every one of these draws from diverse groups and sectors, as working effectively with community organizations towards health equity requires partnerships far beyond any one discipline, profession, or sector.

Within all this complexity and challenge, family medicine has a wonderful opportunity to serve as builders of bridges to and with our diverse communities, many of whose members come to us for care. By expanding our vision so that we are engaged with communities around their priorities and needs, we can help build on their strengths, add our own and those of our academic colleagues, to our shared goal of achieving health equity.