How I’ve Changed and Am Changing

How the STFM Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator Fellowship Influenced My Professional Development

  1. Step to the beat of a different drummer
  2. Bring your gift (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum)
  3. Support the rhythm of the group

—Hugh Blumenfeld

Amber Cadick, PhD, HSPP

Amber Cadick, PhD, HSPP

During the keynote address at the STFM Annual Spring Conference last spring, the presenter spoke about the Beatles and which band member everyone would be. Our table, made up of my small group, decided that we would be the “Ringos.” We are the quirky faculty members, the ones that aren’t quite like the others. However, much like Ringo, we keep the beat and know when the rhythm is starting to go astray.

Prior to starting STFM’s Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator Fellowship, I felt very alone in my position. I had my predecessor to use as a support, but she was busy starting her new position in a different city. I had her files, her old calendar, and her desk, but I felt very alone and concerned that I had made a terrible mistake leaving the familiarity and regulations of the Department of Veterans Affairs. My life was definitely a wild, irregular drum beat.

After the Annual Spring Conference, I began to develop my rhythm. I learned how to use great curriculum tools and began to implement them. Prior to this fellowship, the mental health rotation was seen as a breeze and would often receive poor feedback during rotation evaluations. It was chopped up into small bits, and there was little consistency in the experience.

Since starting the fellowship, my residents report they enjoy the rotation and have taken several pieces into their everyday practice. The new curriculum program created a dedicated month block for each resident for mental health. Relationships were developed with community partners to grant the residents access to a variety of mental health experiences. The program reevaluated what family medicine doctors need and shifted the mental health experience from primarily inpatient psychiatry to more experience with outpatient psychiatric prescribers. The assignments I gave, such as the windshield survey and family ecomap, allowed residents to challenge their preconceived notions of their patients and grow as empathetic and caring physicians. Last but not least, this new program gave me the power to require high standards for the mental health rotation. If a resident failed to complete all of the assignments or show up to outside placements (unfortunately, this often occurred in the past), my program director gave me the authority to fail the resident and have them repeat the rotation. This was tested by some, and when I did not budge, I was then treated with the same respect as my physician faculty members.

The beat plays on as I have begun to increase my scholarly activity, often pulling in a resident to submit a proposal or to write up a behavioral health case. I am excited about this piece of my professional development, and I find it challenging and a little scary. I presented this year at the Program Directors Workshop/Residency Program Solutions Residency Education Symposium and have submitted two proposals for the Forum for Behavioral Science in Family Medicine.

The greatest part of how I have changed is I now know I am not alone, I am part of a band. There have been several occasions during this fellowship where I have needed guidance and have called upon my group leaders or my fellow group members. Having this great resource of people has also allowed my other faculty to connect with others and share ideas. I am now the one to say, “I know someone who works at that residency, let me connect you with them.”

I am pretty sure I will always be Ringo. I will always be the one to see things just a little differently from the rest of my colleagues. I will be the emotional one, the safe one, the reflective one, and in some ways the wild one. But most of all I will continue to make music with my fellow faculty members. We will produce kind, compassionate, brilliant, and thoughtful family physicians. That is a gift that’s worth the risk.

I challenge you to find your rhythm and the members of your band. Discover all of the resources and mentors available to you through STFM and take advantage of them. Find your rhythm.


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