Category Archives: Family Medicine Stories

The Moment I Became More Human

Rebekah Rollston

Rebekah Rollston, MD, MPH

It was the first day of my rural primary care health fair week, and my second patient of the day taught me a lesson that will continue to affect my practice of medicine for the duration of my career.

Within 1 minute of entering the patient room, by myself, I learned that my 48-year-old male patient was an ex-convict, released from prison about 8 months ago. This was not the first time he had been in prison… he has been in and out of jail and prison since the age of 15. Within these first few moments, I became fearful for my safety, and I desperately wanted to exit the room. Fortunately, I held myself in my chair and continued to listen to my patient, who has often been regarded as not worthy of respect by society and within the health care system.

He talked to me about his health concerns, countless suicide attempts, incarcerations, reasons for incarcerations, and his current living conditions. I was in awe of his willingness to so freely talk with me about such sensitive subjects, and I was devastated by much of the history he provided. I listened as he proudly told me about the tent he lives in behind Target and was humbled by his pride that his tent area is the cleanest in his tent community. I listened as my patient described various suicide attempts and was saddened by the story of his Coumadin overdose suicide attempt (with the hope that it would burst every blood vessel in his body and kill him). I was honored to be the provider whom he so proudly told the only illicit drug he sometimes uses is marijuana. He was proud to state that he quit abusing prescription pain medications, alcohol, and tobacco. I talked with my patient about impulse control, mental health resources, and employment opportunities. My patient presented for health clearance for his applications for employment.

However, my encounter with him enriched my education and provided me with the first opportunity to see the “human behind the bars.” My patient is a man struggling with severe mental health disease and nearly constant problems with the law. Despite this, he is a human, and I was honored to be the provider for whom he let this shine through. I learned early on that Wednesday morning the degree to which genuineness and respect can impact patient care, impact the patient on a very personal level, and can change the life of a (future) physician. I discovered in these moments my calling to family medicine, to provide holistic health care to my fellow humans.

Humanism is a large part of the art of family medicine, and patients are, first and foremost, human beings. May I always practice the words of Maimonides: “The physician should not treat the disease but the patient who is suffering from it.”Namasté.


Believing in Our Stories and in Our Field

Megan M Chock, MD, MPH

Megan M Chock, MD, MPH

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.

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The Joy In Family Medicine


Anthony Tam, MD
University of Michigan FMR

When I look back and think about who I thought a doctor was when I was a kid, I imagined that person taking care of kids, adults, and even pregnant mothers. I saw them as a primary responder for minor injuries and illnesses or even for acute processes. And I looked up to these role models and hoped that, some day, I could be that doctor and role model for others. It wasn’t until medical school that I figured out the role model I looked up to was a family medicine physician.

After doing my clerkship rotation in family medicine, I knew this was the field I wanted to enter. A specific patient I had talked to at the clinic was “Mary”.  Mary had come in for a follow-up on her thyroid medication. Routinely, I went in before the resident I was working with to talk to “Mary” and discuss any issues she had. She suddenly burst into tears about how she has been feeling sad and giving up on life. However, after a long discussion about how much good she had done for her family, kids, and community, she came to the conclusion that she deserved to be alive and should continue helping others.  When my resident came in to review what we had discussed, the first thing “Mary” said was, “Will this be the doctor that will replace you when you are gone?  I felt so comfortable talking to him about my troubles in life and really hope that I can continue seeing him in the future for my care.”  It was this moment when I knew that family medicine was the career path for me. I wanted to be that doctor that builds trust in relationships and provides the care that any person needs, regardless of their economic or social situation.

Family physicians present themselves with great confidence, leadership, and sincerity.  They exude confidence by helping patients make informed decisions on preventive care.  They show true leadership in working with not only other doctors, but also the staff that helps run the clinic. And most importantly, they show true sincerity in making sure each patient feels as though they are being seen by a doctor that cares about them.

How do I know that I chose the right profession?  Fast forward now to my second year in a family medicine residency where I am looking forward to the days I have clinic so I can see the patients I started seeing as an intern. The staff I work with make me smile every day I’m here and I enjoy the time I spend in clinic.  I exit each room with my patients laughing and catching up with their lives as I walk them out to checkout.

The great, long-lasting relationships and trust developed with a patient and the continuity of care are priceless. I am so happy to have matched into an amazing family medicine residency that helps me become the doctor whose hand patients can hold in a time of sorrow, the one who encourages them to make the right lifestyle choices, or maybe even the one who takes care of an injured athlete on the field. I am more than eager to continue my time here with Michigan Medicine.