Tag Archives: Medical Student Author

Visions of the Future Coalescing with the Past

This is a finalist in the 2016 STFM Student Blog Competition.

Pratiksha Yalakkishettar

Pratiksha Yalakkishettar

It was the end of a rather long fall afternoon at the family medicine clinic where I worked as a scribe. Our last patient of the day, a cheerful, spunky, bubbly woman 80 years young had come in with her family—three sons, a daughter, and two younger sisters. She had been diagnosed with end stage lung cancer, and they had come in to discuss her goals of care and options moving forward. I had the honor and privilege to be privy to their conversation. As I sat there, typing up notes on their open, honest discourse with shaking hands, I filled with emotions. Their love and optimism to make the best out of the time that was left in as dignified a manner possible touched me deeply. During that visit and subsequent appointments, the whole family had welcomed me into their health care team, quite literally embracing me and encouraging me to learn about what it means to heal once they learned about my dream of becoming a physician.

“I don’t want to know how much longer I have,” our patient had said, “I feel good, I just want to spend time with the grandkids, watch hockey, and have a good time.” I remember that she had laughed about her funeral arrangements and how everyone in the family knew that she had dry cleaned and hung up her desired dress to be buried in, a bright red number that showed off her figure and loyal support of her favorite sports team. My doctor had later told me that this woman had been her patient since she had started practicing almost 20 years ago and that two of her sons and their families came to the same practice. I remember her subsequent visits where she was still just as cheerful, her clothing pristine and her hair always perfectly coifed.

This was just one of hundreds of experiences I had over my year as a scribe where patients trusted me and accepted me into their health care team. They provided me scaffolding for what quality patient care meant. The mother of four who brought in all her children to her baby’s checkups and I would try to distract her 3-year old daughter with coloring pages. The couple married for over 40 years who always came in together, arguing and commenting about the other’s health. The father who expressed concerns about his son’s depression after his granddaughter had passed away in an accident—all three generations had been patients at the clinic.

I want to challenge that while we will see many amazing changes as we progress further into the 21st century, the fundamentals of the field of family medicine will be preserved.

Ten years from now, family medicine will remain at the forefront of primary care.

The next decade may bring a technology revolution where the power of big data is brought into physicians’ hands through cell phone apps, and telemedicine increases access for all. Simultaneously, I predict that we will see the reclamation of the patient’s story: the narrative that tells us who we are treating and what is important to their quality of life when helping them navigate through their treatment plans.

The beauty of family medicine is in its name. While we might see innovation in the architecture of clinics, bringing together interprofessional teams in round-table offices working together seamlessly to take care of the whole patient, this change will be centered around maintaining the integrity of the patient-provider relationship. Family medicine. Even the name describes a relationship.

I think back now on my experience with the lady in red almost 2 years later, as a second-year student in medical school. I wonder how this patient’s story read. I wonder whether she was happy in the last moments of her life and whether the care she received helped her achieve her goals at the end of her life. I wish I could somehow convey to her how important she was to the trajectory of my life.

I hope that 10 years from now, I can be practicing medicine just like my mentor, the family medicine doctor—medicine that focused on healing, on listening, and on the knowledge that relationships and family are fundamental to the art of medicine. I hope to be helping my patients gain the skills to navigate the health care system and be empowered to communicate and pursue their health care goals. I hope to see beautiful births, dignified dying, and everything in between—something that is unique to family medicine alone.




Aleksandra Bacewicz

This is a finalist in the 2016 STFM Student Blog Competition.


Clickity click click clack. I smile to myself as I recall the days I was a medical student, like the one sitting next to me now. Monika’s eyes intently focused, she skims the electronic records for our patients. The names are all so familiar to her, because she has seen them often with the real-time data we receive from them. Gone are the days of visits that occur every few months; we “see” our patients all the time. The definition of quality care in family medicine—patient-centered, values and evidence-based, efficient—is still intact but has been chiseled to include new dimensions.

The consideration of time as a limiting factor has not lost its grip in health care. People are busy. They work varied schedules, sleep at odd hours, visit their grandchildren, water their plants, and drive to appointments. But with the ubiquity of health tracking applications, providers now have the ability to take a peek at an individual’s health status on a regular basis. Triage at the clinic receives some alarming information—Roger’s blood pressure has been through the roof the past few days. Hmm, did he forget to refill his meds? Do we need to finagle his medications and dosing to better manage his hypertension? Are there unaccounted for stressors affecting Roger’s changes? With the wave of data that is available at our fingertips, changes in health care have focused on transferring information from patients to providers in real-time. Medical personnel have an allotted amount of time to work through acute health issues as they arise, in the same way health centers leave open time slots for “day of” appointments.

With dedicated staff sorting through data from our patient pool, providers are kept abreast of issues that need urgent attention. Simultaneously, we are able to respect the immutable facts of life—patients, especially when ill, have a difficult time coming to clinic. They may feel weak, fatigued, or simply have no one to drive them to a last minute appointment. By connecting with patients via phone, email, or other online messaging, the dynamics of power have shifted. It was simply a fact during my medical schooling that patients came to me. They entered within the walls of a room that were not all that welcoming, a little cold and definitely not as cozy as their living rooms; simply put, they were on my turf. Some visits are held at the clinic, while other health discussions are based out of patients’ homes, where I call them at a mutually agreed-upon time. Patients are reassured that they can lean on me as a source of knowledge, while feeling the pulse of their own autonomy.

Moreover, people are often excited with the newest technology, allowing them to be in control of their health in ways that might have been scoffed at decades ago. Technology is readily available and cheap, and made even more affordable through tech and medical partnerships. Patients now have the ability to rely on gadgets to track their blood sugar or take their blood pressure without a second thought. The patient and providers are alerted if health parameters fall out of a certain range, but relatively hands-off tracking methods have provided the opportunity to spend precious time enjoying life, rather than fidgeting with thrice daily needle sticks. Incorporating mobile applications and high tech devices into family medicine has also turned the tide further toward preventive medicine. With patients receiving direct feedback regarding their health, they become finely tuned to understand the push and pull of their body’s homeostasis. Potentially burdensome health conditions can be caught early, as medical staff counsel patients on altering the course of disease progression.

The greatest shift in family medicine in the past decade has been taking advantage of the resources that abound. Technology may not be the panacea we yearn for, but it is an impactful tool to be used wisely and creatively. As medical providers, our ideas for improvement can sometimes get trapped within the walls of our clinics. But in order to continue engaging patients and molding quality medical care into the confines of daily living, we strive to keep up with the spirit of the times—or risk leaving health and wellness behind.

Three Patients Who Helped Me Realize How Special Family Medicine Is


Ashley Boerrigter, Medical Student

Come, be a shadow with me – I’ll show you three patients who helped me realize just how special family medicine is.
A woman in her late 50s is seated in the chair across from us. Her husband, who was not present, had been diagnosed a few months prior with terminal cancer, and his treatment was palliative, not curative. She breaks into heaving sobs when the doctor asks how she is doing with such a burden. He listens to her, hearing her out and giving her space to be completely honest about what she is feeling, and then speaks encouraging words. He hugs her and she holds on for a long time. This interaction taught me about the value of providing safe space for emotional release.

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