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.
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.