Mariana’s commitment to her community, love of learning, and sincere support inspired me to become a family physician. This blog post is my way of thanking her and showing the influence she’s had on me and my journey and goals in family medicine.
It was an early fall evening in Rochester, Minnesota, and I was trying to put on my newest possession, a big black down-filled coat which made me feel twice as wide and five times as clumsy. I stumbled into the workroom of our free smoking cessation clinic at the local Salvation Army, shrugging the glorified sleeping bag over my shoulders. It was 2010 and I was in my first year of medical school, still trying to figure out how to layer against the cold.
“Hey, are you from Hawaii?”
I turned around, almost knocking over the objects behind me, and saw a smiling, brown-eyed, brown-haired young woman, maybe a few years older than me. “Um–yeah…?”
“Hi, I’m Mariana!”
This was my introduction to Mariana Cook-Huynh, one of the most influential people in my journey to family medicine.
Mariana was 2 years ahead of me at Mayo Medical School. She was from Guam–hence the recognition of my “island accent”—her words, not mine. Other than the island connection, we were both interested in public health—when I first met her, she was doing her MPH at the University of Minnesota. Moreover, though:
“Do you want to go back?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I said.
We both wanted to bring back what we had learned to where we had grown up.
I had Mariana’s example and guidance to follow as I went through medical school. Through a string of emails and some in-person meetings, Mariana, one of her classmates, and I started our school’s public health interest group. One of Mariana’s ideas was to organize a walking tour around Rochester so people could get to know the community. When I applied for my own MPH, Mariana’s advice on her course choices and how she was going to use these skills helped me to shape my own program.
Mariana always wanted to do family medicine and when she joined United Family Medicine Residency in St. Paul, her goal was to bring quality maternity care to Guam. She did an extra year of mastery to do C-sections and today is part of Guam’s first birthing center, Sagua Mañagu, as part of Marianas Physicians Group. She delivers babies, takes care of moms and families, and emphasizes healthy beginnings in her home community.
Even more than Mariana’s clinical and academic examples, though, her support and her sincere acknowledgment of personal relationships made a huge difference in my choice to do family medicine. Mariana has a wonderful family: two sons and a great partner, Haig, who works as an attorney and has shaped his legal practice to community needs as well. When I was applying for residency, I had more email conversations with Mariana that were not only about the residency programs but also how to keep focused on values and gain confidence in the family medicine skills that can bring about meaningful improvements in the communities we serve.
Mariana’s story shows the power of influence by peers, and she continues to be an inspiration for me. When medical students see peers they look up to choose family medicine, it provides different inspiration than role models already in practice.
I hope that all of us in family medicine can focus on believing in our stories and in our field. We may never know the extent of our influence. Mission-driven goals combined with sincere encouragement will cross oceans and change lives for patients, potential family physicians, and our peers.