Throwing Spaghetti, Working in the Presence of Giants, and Making Connections

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Throwing Spaghetti to Find a Leadership Opportunity

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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.

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My Dream: Closing the Nation’s Achievement Gap Through Teaching Family Medicine

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Whitney LeFevre, MD

During most of my adult life, I’ve felt called to help close the achievement gap that exists in our country. So I deferred medical school to teach middle school math and science in inner city Baltimore with Teach For America. During my 2 years of teaching, I found that while I loved my students and I loved teaching them algebra and life sciences, I felt called back into the field of medicine. I saw that the best way for me to close the achievement gap was to return to medicine to find ways to address the many social determinants of health that kept my students from success.

In medical school, I was the education director for the MedZou Student-Run Free Clinic. The clinic both teaches medical students the joys of primary care and provides health care to the uninsured. My time at MedZou not only inspired me to become a family physician but also gave me the opportunity to create new programs to teach medical students while providing quality care to those in need. It’s at this intersection—the intersection of helping those in need while also stimulating medical students to be future family doctors for the underserved—where I truly feel I am able to fulfill my calling to close the achievement gap in our country.

In residency, I worked in an urban underserved environment with a predominantly Spanish-speaking population. Our patients had many social issues, including homelessness, addiction, food instability—the list goes on. In a place of great need like Lawrence, MA, I was motivated by how much family medicine was valued there. My patients deserved doctors who are full-spectrum trained and committed to quality, access, and patient-centeredness. And that’s what they got.

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Advice for New Faculty: When the Road Less Traveled Ends in Thorns

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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.”

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