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.
After a few years of attending and presenting at several STFM conferences, I served the organization by cochairing an STFM group and later, a collaborative. Working in this capacity allowed me to not only develop some great friendships but also to develop professional connections and scholarly activity that counted toward my academic promotion to associate professor. I was fortunate to be part of an STFM Foundation-funded project team that, with the support of STFM leadership, was able to put together some ideas around mentoring in the organization and discuss strategies to make STFM even more inclusive of people of color. Great strides have been made but there is more room to grow.
Most recently I was nominated and selected to join the STFM Program Committee and I’m now working as a mentor to younger faculty members who have been awarded New Faculty Scholar Awards like I was many years ago. It’s been inspiring and motivating to work with the colleagues at STFM whom I’ve had the privilege of working and rising up the ranks within the organization.
To the students and residents from groups underrepresented in medicine reading this: academic family medicine needs you. STFM needs you. If I could do something over again in medical school or residency it would be to get involved with the Society much sooner to take better advantage of the learning, mentoring, and leadership activities. Show up to conferences and listen, or better yet, present! Attend collaborative meetings—your voice matters and your energy is needed to keep things moving forward. Follow along on the STFM Connect platform to keep the discussion going between meetings. Donate to the Foundation to continue to support important programs.
What you get back is so much more than you put in.