Tag Archives: Resident Author

Why I Chose Family Medicine

 This blog post is a finalist in the STFM Blog Competition.

Mawusi Arnett, MD, MPH

Mawusi Arnett, MD, MPH

At the start of my internal medicine clerkship in medical school, I learned that I had inherited a “difficult patient.” He was 28 years old and had been admitted overnight for hypercalcemia and poorly-controlled sarcoidosis. During sign-out, the overnight resident shared that my “difficult patient”, Mr Johnson, was “non-compliant” with his medications and was threatening to leave against medical advice (AMA). Like a dutiful medical student, I shuffled to Mr Johnson’s room to check in before rounds. Maybe I’d gain some insight and garner some early-rotation good will, I thought. “You’ve done this before,” I reminded myself as I paused outside of room 1354. One swift, sharp breath to steel myself against…I wasn’t sure what. Two knocks and in: “Mr Johnson! I’m Student-Doctor Arnett. How are you this morning?”
Thirty minutes later, the story had shifted and I remember it like it was yesterday. I sat at Mr Johnson’s bedside while he sat slouched on the bed with his legs swung over the side. I don’t know whether it was his familiar eyes that turned down at the corners like my brothers’ or whether it was the pragmatism around the explanation of his life and choices, but I couldn’t for the life of me see Mr Johnson as “difficult.”
Had he skipped months of medications? Sure, but who wouldn’t if, like him, they were affordable. Had he missed his last several primary care and rheumatology visits? Absolutely, but with an understanding of his financial instability, how could he afford his copay? Had he asked to leave AMA before his calcium levels had normalized? “Definitely,” he stated calmly, “and I still plan to.” Mr Johnson shared that he essentially had two full-time jobs. Not only was he a home health aid, but he was also the primary caretaker of his bedridden mother. To complicate matters, his mother had advanced sarcoidosis and insulin-dependent diabetes complicated by kidney failure. If he stayed in the hospital overnight, not only could his home-bound clients miss out on care, but his mother would miss her meals and insulin doses.

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From Journalism to Medicine: Not Such a Huge Leap After All

Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS

Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS

Now that I have stacked up a good number of years in medical practice, I am one of those doctors who gets asked from time to time to talk about my career with medical students and junior physicians, answering questions about how I chose my specialty, how I like life in academia, and how I balance being a doctor, a spouse, and a mother.

Part of my answer always includes my late start in the field. I was nearly 30 when I decided to give up on a life in journalism and go back to school and become a doctor.  For a decade before that, I was a newswoman, a radio producer, and then a TV producer and editor, and I worked in Jerusalem, New York, and London. I covered wars, natural disasters, politics, terror attacks, international affairs, and some fluff stories as well. Yes, I must confess: skateboarding squirrels, surfing dogs, and high-heel races are some of the memorable news stories I shared with the world.

And when I share this, the most common comment I get is some variation of, “Wow, journalism to medicine sounds like 180 degrees!”

I thought so too at the time I started making the switch. But eventually I found it not to be a radical change at all. To the contrary, my decade in news prepared me well—better than any of the required organic chemistry or physics courses—for a life as a medical doctor.

Here’s why:

It’s all about storytelling.

One of the things that many students feel most nervous (and excited) about in the first 1 to 2 years of medical school is interviewing patients. This is what we call in medicine taking a history: a process that is at least as important as doing a physical examination. Indeed, I would argue that its impact is often greater than diagnostic testing or lab results in reaching a diagnosis and creating management plans.

For me, history taking felt like being back out on a story, behind the camera, getting the facts and making them make sense. Doing this well, in either context, is an art in itself: knowing when to press, when to let go, asking open ended questions, letting silences linger, paying attention to what’s not being said. These are crucial skills that we, as medical educators, try to teach medical students from year one to the end of their training and beyond. And they were skills I acquired in journalism.

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


whitney.headshot (1)

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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