Laura Bujold, DO, MEd
The office is about to open when my office manager—I’ll call her Sally—walks up to me and says, “Did you see the pumping space I made for you?”
“No,” I respond. Sally and I walk in the door to an office that holds two nurse triage personnel. There is a rod with a shower curtain hanging that exposes a 3 x 21/2-foot area at best. One of the “walls” is the bookshelf and the other two walls are the corner of the office. The fourth “wall” is the shower curtain. Sally says she bought the supplies herself, smiles, and then leaves.
I run to grab my pump and pumping bag while panic consumes my confusion. There is no room for my pump. Even in a true office space, I could barely manage enough room for the pump, tubing, flanges, bottles, paper towels, water, and nursing bra, let alone the cooler for the milk.
I move quickly—my first patient will be here soon. I search the office for a small table and I find one in the bathroom; I put it immediately outside the homemade cubicle. I put my pump on the table. The electrical cord to my breast pump doesn’t reach any of the outlets. My heart skips a beat. My patient will be here any minute. I move the table toward the closest outlet. With the breast pump’s electrical cord completely extended and the tubing stretched, my pump is plugged in but it is sitting about 1 foot outside of the cubicle.
In order to breastfeed and meet patient access demands, I am dividing my lunchtime throughout the office day to pump. However, this dedicated pumping time frequently gets booked with patients. When I ask for the patients booked in my pumping times to be rescheduled, I am told “Oh, you can’t see them?” or “Are you sure?” or “But there isn’t another time available in your schedule.”
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.
Renee Crichlow, MD
In the last couple of years, I have been a co-teacher in an undergraduate program part of whose mission is to increase underrepresented in medicine (URM) students in our medical school. There are many reasons I have chosen to do this and to fully understand, I thought it would be important to share a little bit of my student career history.
To begin, nothing in here is about bragging. It’s really about sharing a story that may be similar to what others have seen.
My high school was a very high performing public school: we had 13 National Merit Scholars in the year I graduated, and I was one of them. (Except at that time in 1985 my award was called National Merit Outstanding Negro Scholar. I’m not joking. That’s exactly what it was called in 1985.) I mention this because it’s an indication of the fact that I would have been considered a very high-capacity, high-potential performer for college.
For many reasons that I won’t go into, there was no family support for me either financially or socially to enter college. So I found a way to get to college by myself. Eventually, I decided to stay in the town that I grew up in and went to school at Oklahoma University.
In order to afford food and books, I had to work night shifts at Hardee’s, closing the restaurant quite late. I didn’t have a car so if my friend couldn’t pick me up I walked back to campus. I worked multiple nights each week and carried a full credit load. I would say my grades there were mediocre at best. By the end of the first semester, it was clear to me that I was very bored staying in the same town that I grew up in. I went to the large pile of brochures that I’d been sent after winning National Merit Outstanding Negro Scholar award and I chose to apply to Boston University because it had rolling admissions and would accept me based on my ACT and SAT scores alone as my GPA was not very impressive. I ended the year with about a 3.2.