As the 2021-2022 term comes to a close, we sat down with incoming STFM President Linda Myerholtz, PhD to learn about her journey into family medicine education and her plans as President of the STFM Board of Directors.
Linda Myerholtz, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of Behavioral Science Education at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill start her term as STFM President during the 2022 STFM Annual Spring Conference. She brings with her a passion for human behavior, building community, and integrated healthcare.
Growing up as a “professor’s kid”, Myerholtz was born in Caracas, Venezuela. “My father was working for a company at the time, though I have no memory of living in South America. Our family moved back to the US when I was 6 months old, and landed in Racine, Wisconsin.” Myerholtz explained. “I spent my early childhood in Wisconsin, before we moved to Bowling Green, Ohio when I was 14. There was quite a bit of culture shock going from a big city like Milwaukee to a very small town, where I could see cornfields growing from my bedroom window.”
Myerholtz began to love the rural, small town university life, and went on to complete her undergraduate and graduate work at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. “I married my husband and we started our family. The winters were long and gray, and we dreamed of moving further south.”
When asked if she always knew medicine was the career for her, Myerholtz said “I’m not sure why, as I lived in the middle of the Midwest far away from any beach or ocean, but as a child, I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I loved biology, and it sounded exciting. When I took Introduction to Psychology my freshman year, I was fascinated about human behavior, and I knew this was my career path.” Myerholtz went on to give a shout out to her professor, Dr Stone, proving the impact good educators have on young minds beginning their academic medicine journey.
As Myerholtz’s career took off in community mental health, she moved into more administrative roles, but continued providing training for graduate psychology interns. “This brought me so much joy, and there were a few STFM members who trained with me at the same time.” While this passion for working with marginalized individuals continued to grow, the administrative aspects pulled Myerholtz away from the more enjoyable parts of her work, namely clinical care, teaching, program development, and research.
“One day, I saw a posting in my inbox for a position as a Director of Behavioral Science in a family medicine residency program [Mercy Family Medicine in Toledo, Ohio]. I was enticed by the opportunity to teach bright young adults who shared my passion in making communities healthier and the opportunity to resume my research and practice integrated behavioral healthcare. When I first started at Mercy, I couldn’t tell you much about medical education or what it was like to be a resident, but the residents taught me and I felt like I really found my passion.”
That passion resulted in Myerholtz’s ability to work closely with different learners and fellow faculty. “Each day is different,” she went on to explain. “We’re always reflecting on how we can continue to improve the wellbeing of our communities through the practice of family medicine – what could be better?”
Myerholtz is quick to mention lessons abound in family medicine education, but there is one that has stuck with her. “Be kind to your future self. As you reflect on your past self, do so with compassion,” she explained. The first part helps me prioritize and reminds me to make decisions today that support myself in the future. The second part reminds me not to judge my past self, based on the knowledge and the wisdom I have today. Past decisions and mistakes are a part of being human, and we need to offer compassion for the person we were when those things happened.”
While her career progressed, Myerholtz’s dream to move her family further south was solidified when she accepted a position with the University of North Carolina. “Being a behavioral scientist in graduate medical education is truly a dream job, and it’s been fantastic living in North Carolina. We still get the change of seasons, but the winter is much shorter! We can go hiking in the mountains, relax at the beach, and explore great restaurants and cultural gems.”
As she prepares to be installed as STFM President, Myerholtz looks forward to bringing that passion for wellbeing to STFM members. “I’m proud and humbled to represent the STFM membership as president. My passion for interprofessional team-based education and practice promotes system change and supports wellbeing within the graduate medical education structure. The journey to family medicine education is exhilarating and exhausting,” she explained. “What I most look forward to, though, is continuing to foster connections among our members. I’m so excited we will be able to renew collaborations together at our Annual Conference in Indianapolis. Connection is what makes STFM so exceptional,” she continued. “None of us can do this alone, nor do we have to reinvent the wheel. Through STFM, we come together to make the wheel even better.”
Part of improving that wheel comes from the utilization of STFM resources. “As I reflected on what I’ve used most, the list continued to grow. I was fortunate to participate in the first class of the Behavioral Science Family Systems Educator Fellowship, and this was pivotal in my career. I found so many collaborative relationships and true friendships. I also utilize the STFM Resource Library frequently to gain inspiration from other excellent educators. I’ve learned so much from our Collaboratives – being able to reach out to a Listserv of amazing colleagues when I have a question is so incredibly valuable. Whether through fellowships, collaboratives, toolkits, certificate programs, or the resource library, STFM allows us to connect with each other and share our learning, with the ultimate goal of transforming family medicine education and the health of our communities.”
When she’s not revolutionizing family medicine education and empowering marginalized communities, Myerholtz finds joy with her family. “While my career has brought me a strong sense of accomplishment, I’m most proud of the adults my children have become. Raising three human beings who are living the values that are important to me… kindness, compassion for others, generosity, a commitment to social justice, valuing diversity… it fills my heart. Watching them go out into the world, knowing they make the world a better place now, and for future generations, is a tremendous joy.”
That love for her family extends to acting as a personal travel guide for their adventures. “Planning the trip is about enhancing the joy while practicing delayed gratification.”
STFM and its members will benefit immensely from Myerholtz’s leadership, experience, compassion, and drive. We welcome her to the Board of Directors for the 2022-2023 year.