Category Archives: Family Medicine Stories

The Energy and Courage to Try New Things: My Memories of STFM Conferences Over the Years

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John Frey, MD

I have been attending STFM meetings since 1972, when I went to my first meeting as a resident, and have missed only three since that time. Those first meetings are all a jumble in my memory but mostly I remember feeling as if, somehow, I had found sanctuary, at least for a few days each year. Everyone was busy with the work of starting a career without a roadmap, making it up as we went along and comparing notes at the annual meeting. I suppose I had the idea that STFM meetings would have “the answers” but as one of my early residents said, it took me a few years to realize that there were no “answers”, just more questions and that was as it should be.  I would go home with my head full of possibilities. Fortunately, that feeling has never left me.

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Feed a Discipline (With Research Questions): Become Shark Bait

Winston R Liaw, MD, MPH

Winston R Liaw, MD, MPH

Research is to see what everybody else has seen and to think what nobody else has thought.

  • Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Each year, my colleague, Alex Krist, and I sit down with our Virginia Commonwealth University family medicine residents to brainstorm potential research topics for their scholarly activities, and each year, we encounter a similar series of events. Initially, there is silence (frequently prolonged and often deafening) followed by musings about their lack of research experience. Then, a brave soul offers a question that has been plaguing her. A classmate asks a similar but related question. The conversation reminds a third resident about a different question he always wanted to answer. By the end of the hour, we have a list of fascinating, important questions.

  • Do calorie counters improve patient outcomes?
  • Why do our patients use the emergency room next door when our walk in clinic is open?
  • Has the new patient portal affected the volume and type of phone calls we receive?
  • Are patients at the community health center interested in doing video visits?

Your STFM Research Committee thought that family medicine residents and faculty nationwide may similarly have pressing questions to answer but lack the means to do so. Initially conceived by STFM Research Committee members Tammy Chang and Rob Post, we launched a session at the 2016 STFM Conference entitled: “Shark Tank for Family Medicine: Real-time Feedback for Primary Care Research Ideas”. During the workshop, seven participants pitched research ideas to three “sharks” (well-established primary care researchers). The sharks provided real-time feedback and then selected participants to mentor over the year. For those of you not tuned in to pop culture, our workshop is based on the TV show Shark Tank where contestants pitch business ideas to established entrepreneurs and winners receive funding and mentorship.

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Medicine Inherently Requires All Physicians to Be Teachers

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Throughout my medical education, my best mentors have been family physicians. Without exception, they are enthusiastic, committed, passionate, intelligent, and innovative leaders who have inspired me to be the best family physician I can be. As I cross the midpoint of my residency training, I have spent more time thinking about the next steps in my career and how to best continue to affect change. I want to prioritize teaching family medicine and pursue a career either in academics or in a position where I can work closely with medical students or residents.

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Karl Dietrich, MD, MPH

Medicine inherently requires all physicians to be teachers, and find effective and efficient ways to share information with patients. As a high school teacher prior to pursuing medicine, this was one of the appealing parts of becoming a physician. By embracing our role as teachers, we allow our patients to learn about their own health, become their own best advocates, and hopefully influence others to think more about their health. Teaching family medicine appeals to me because it could broaden my potential impact by not only increasing the number of future family physicians but by increasing the number of physicians in other fields with a strong understanding of the value of family medicine. We know that a strong primary care system will be essential to the ongoing success of our health care system, and I see no better way to ensure that than by increasing the number of committed family physicians in this country.

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