Evelyn Figueroa, MD
Zoe,* a 35-year-old law student, often missed and rescheduled appointments for her toddler Elias.* I have supervised Elias’ visits with the residents since his first newborn visit 2 years ago. Although I have only seen them with the residents, Zoe identifies me as their primary care physician and has always scheduled Elias’ visits during my teaching clinics. I have examined this cute little guy at every visit and thought I knew this family well.
I knew that Zoe and Elias were struggling because of the issues we discussed at every visit: finishing law school 90 miles away, struggling to maintain her breast milk, and single motherhood. Zoe’s tired face showed determination despite her challenges. Little Elias, in a loose diaper, always clung to Zoe’s tiny frame, a fact that initially made me think he was simply on the small side. Despite multiple no-shows, we gathered enough data to construct a disappointing growth trajectory. Was it failure to thrive or constitutional small stature? Medical advice typically consisted of dietary counseling aimed at boosting calories and more frequent follow-up.
Recently, I recognized Elias’ name on a resident’s schedule. Anticipating their typical tardiness, I asked the front desk to register Elias regardless of arrival time. When they came a little late, they were quickly ushered into to an exam room. The resident reported that although Elias had normal development, his weight remained below the first percentile.
Throwing Spaghetti to Find a Leadership Opportunity
LeeAnne Denny, MD
Every single faculty member with whom I work is amazing. They are very active on a national level and are leaders in family medicine advocacy, physician wellbeing, evidence-based medicine education, faculty development, collaborative practice, and service learning.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t figure out how they managed to sit on national committees and boards. So I asked my program director about it. He said you find an opportunity in which you are interested and then you apply. He said, “throw lots of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.” (I’m so glad this is just a colorful metaphor and not an actual practice at our institution or the walls would be a vile mess given the ambition and abilities of our physicians.)
Fortuitously, shortly after having my talk with my program director, I received an email informing me that STFM was looking for people to serve on a task force to help plan for the 50th anniversary celebration. As my core values are connection, fun, and growth, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity.
So I wrenched my arm back and hurled my spaghetti as hard as I could. And it stuck right to the wall. I was so grateful when I found out that I had been accepted to join the task force, I told my program director about it right away.
Richard F. Mitchell, MD,
For many clinicians, the path of medicine is a comfortable one—well-worn, made by many feet before your own. From college to residency and beyond, the courses to take, exams to pass, and applications to fill out have been laid out for us in a nice, orderly path. There is some room for brief excursions off the path, but the route to our prescribed life of clinic medicine, hospital medicine, specialty care like sports med, OB, or geriatrics, or some combination thereof is a well-marked trail with lighted signs to guide us all the way.
Until the day you decide to teach. I recall talking to our program director on the first day I had administrative time and asked, “What should I do?” His response: “I don’t care.”