Kehinde Eniola, MD, MPH
It takes baby steps; do not be in haste to accomplish your goal. And when it seems your goal is unattainable, never give up.
This motto is what I lived by during my journey as an immigrant from Nigeria on my way to becoming a family medicine faculty member.
My baby step to success began back in 1997 while getting ready for college in Nigeria. I was enrolled in a predegree course in basic science with the intention of getting into college to study agricultural economics. However, as fate would have it, I completed my predegree course with excellent grades and I qualified to enroll in medical science.
In my first year, I quickly realized that it takes a devoted mind and a committed heart to be successful in the field of medicine. And on top of the rigors of medical school, I endured years of studying in the dark due to inadequate electricity supply and frequent school closure due to rioting and lecturer strikes. However, despite all the hardship, I was focused on one goal: becoming a medical doctor. In 2006, I graduated from medical school and shortly after I relocated to the United States.
One might wonder “why relocate to the United States after completing medical school?” Right after medical school, I applied to various medical institutions in Nigeria for a medical internship position. After multiple attempts to get into one of these institutions failed, I decided to relocate to the United States to further my medical education. Many questions crossed my mind: What if I do not pass the required licensing exam to further my medical career in the United States? What if I cannot afford to pay for the licensing exams? What if… What if… Some international medical graduates say that it is challenging to get into a residency program; others recommended going for a nursing program instead, to make ends meet while trying to get into a medical residency program. Despite my fear, I summoned courage and began the process of getting into a US residency program.
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Edgar Figueroa, MD, MPH
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.
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Jeffrey Haney, MD
It’s on your development plan, it’s one of your New Year’s resolutions, or maybe it’s written on last year’s annual faculty review: “You need to learn how to say no.”
Many of us spend decades practicing self-flagellation for not learning to say no. Consider yourself liberated from this tyranny. Don’t learn to say no. Learn to say yes with purpose.
This idea, saying yes, is not unique—it is all the rage. Oprah swears by it. The Huffington Post has a long-form article on the subject. Even the TV titan, Shonda Rhimes, devoted a TED Talk to the subject. The consistent argument for saying yes—the adventure, rising to a new challenge, learning new things—tickles the carpe diem recesses of our brain. On the surface, saying yes makes sense, but not in isolation. We are aware of the ridiculousness of always saying yes— I am currently picturing my child asking me if he can eat candy for dinner every night this week. So how should we say yes?
An annual faculty review provided the “Aha!” moment. During the review, I appreciated a faculty member’s willingness to jump in and always say yes. In the next breath, I appreciated her capacity to be clear about her boundaries and engagement in important work of the residency. The next moment was subsumed by my cognitive dissonance—the faculty member always seeming to say yes, possessed a clear set of boundaries. In the haze of thought, I heard myself say, “you are wonderful at saying yes, with purpose!” I am unsure if it was her conscious practice, but it was a modeled behavior to share to the world.
Saying yes, with a purpose. In saying yes to opportunity tied to purpose, the results are clear and achievable. When the opportunity is not tied to purpose, it can become a vague promise difficult to keep going and nearly impossible to fulfill. The beauty of saying yes with purpose is that it obviates the need to learn how to say no.