One African American Woman’s Leadership Journey

Judy Washington, MD

Judy Washington, MD

To inspire the next generation of underrepresented in medicine (URM) educators, the STFM Foundation is launching a year-long blog series. In the new series, The Path We Took, URM members will share the path they took to become faculty and leaders in family medicine. I’m delighted to kick off the series by sharing my own leadership journey.

One African American Woman’s Leadership Journey

When you have the privilege to serve in leadership, you have the responsibility to reach back and identify other colleagues who would not otherwise have the opportunity to be recognized. You can do this through mentoring, building systems to support the underrepresented, or financially supporting the individuals or the systems that assist them.

When the opportunity was presented to be a cochair of the Minority and Multicultural Health Collaborative, I said “Yes!”  I was fortunate to work with two wonderful African American women as my cochairs. At the time, both of them were rising leaders in their institutions, and I found myself being both a mentor and a mentee. I found their support of me to be crucial in making me the leader I am today.

As we led the collaborative, we found that its mission to increase minority representation had been challenged over the years by declining underrepresented in medicine (URM) membership and active participation. To combat this, our collaborative submitted a proposal, “Quality Mentorship Through STFM,” to the STFM Project Fund and received a $20,000 grant over 2 years. This grant allowed us to mentor new URM faculty and design a reproducible mentoring model. This model has been adopted by the New Faculty Scholars and led to collaboration with the Women in Family Medicine and New Faculty in Family Medicine Collaboratives. Our mentees continue to be visible and active in STFM. Two will soon complete the Emerging Leaders Fellowship.

Around the time of the project, I was asked to become a trustee of the STFM Foundation. My new challenge was to move from being a mentor and system builder to being a fundraiser. Earlier this year,  I became the campaign chair for the URM Campaign. Donations to the URM campaign will support scholarships for students to attend the Conference on Medical Student Education, scholarships for residents to attend the Faculty for Tomorrow Workshop, scholarships for new faculty to attend the STFM Annual Spring Conference, and scholarships for the Emerging Leaders Fellowship. Funds will also be used to provide mentoring opportunities and fund innovative projects that contribute to a diverse family medicine workforce.

For me now, this reaching back goes beyond  STFM. We need to build the next generation of family medicine educators. This means supporting mentoring programs in middle school through college, and in medical school and in residency.  It includes looking to our community preceptors to find those excellent teachers who can transition into URM faculty. We need to increase URM members within STFM to ensure a diverse membership with a robust supply of new leaders to fill needed roles.  

Pecha Kucha: A Special Families and Health Blog Series


This is is part of the Pecha Kucha: A Special Families and Health Blog Series.

What can you learn in 6 minutes and 40 seconds? Is this enough time to deeply listen to the person in front of you? Can you walk away with a new idea, a challenging proposition, motivation to learn more? We think so! Pecha Kucha is a structured approach to presentations that allows 20 images with 20 seconds of talk time for a presenter to use to communicate with an audience. Pecha Kucha gives us just shy of 7 minutes to engage and learn something new.

Fogarty Colleen MD 103 300print

Colleen Fogarty, MD, MSc

I am delighted to introduce a series of blog posts co-hosted (and co-posted!) by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) and the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA).  Both organizations are near and dear to my heart. STFM, founded in 1967, boasts a tagline of “Transforming health care through education” and as a professional home for family medicine faculty from multiple many disciplines, achieves that mission daily. ( CFHA, founded in 1995, “promotes comprehensive and cost-effective models of healthcare delivery that integrate mind and body, individual and family, patients, providers, and communities.” (

This series of blogs is based on a seminar presented at the 2018 STFM conference, in which the presenters, Randall Reitz, PhD, LMFT, Amy M. Romain, LMSW, ACSW, Valerie Ross MS, LMFT, and Daniel S. Felix, PhD, LMFT used the Pecha Kucha format to provide an engaging, visually stimulating overview of important concepts from family systems theory.

Understanding the concept of shared family beliefs allows a physician to recognize when a certain lifestyle change might be easier or harder for the patient sitting in front of them.  

Family physicians we should make a clear stand for the importance of family systems approaches. Otherwise, we are glorified (or un-glorified) internists who sometimes deliver babies and see kids!   

Posts in this series:

The Doctor-Patient-Family Triangle: Training Residents to Work With Triangulation in the Clinic Encounter

This is is part of the Pecha Kucha: A Special Families and Health Blog Series.


Studio portrait of Valerie Ross.

Valerie Ross, MS, LMFT

At age 9 I took up the cello. It has been one of the joys of my life and surprisingly an important influence in my approach to teaching physicians.

To learn to play an instrument, you perform in front of a teacher who uses everything they know to coach you to play proficiently and musically. They first listen, they demonstrate and teach specific skills like how to hold the instrument or draw the bow, asking questions and offering encouragement. Then you go home and practice and come back for more coaching.

Imagine for a moment if we taught musicians the way we teach most health care clinicians. A learner would rarely play their instrument in front of their teacher. They’d describe their perception of their playing. We’d learn how they think about playing their instrument but not how they actually play. It does not make sense to us to think about training musicians or athletes without observation and coaching, and yet this is the way many health care providers are taught. We need to define, hear, see, and model the concepts and skills we want our learners to practice.

As a family therapist and behavioral scientist in a family medicine residency, I regularly observe residents in clinical encounters; in this context I find opportunities to teach them about the family systems concept called triangulation.  

Two founding fathers of a family-oriented primary care approach, Bill Doherty, PhD, and Mac Baird, MD, observed that the doctor-patient relationship is always a triangle involving the clinician, the patient, and the family.


A clinician can use her or his position in the triangle therapeutically. However, if we are unaware of this triangle, we neglect to think about family members who are not in the room and we risk the possibility of unconscious “triangulation.”

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