Expressed political views are those of the author.
As I near the end of my Family Medicine Residency Training and begin to transition into practicing as a Family Physician in real life, I can’t help but believe that I’m ready. Not because I have reached a point where I know every diagnosis and how to treat it. Not even close.
But what I do know is this. In what I have experienced so far, I have been able to simplify my roadmap to living out a fulfilling, well-intentioned, and well balanced life, which comes down to just these 3 actions:
Find your voice. Find your people. Find your purpose.
Find your people. Find your voice. Find your purpose.
Find your purpose. Find your people. Find your voice.
I do not list these actions in repetition to emphasize one being more important than the other. What I am emphasizing here is that there is in fact no particular order, no journey is alike. As a Family Physician I am not going to know everything. I never will. I will always be learning, which is why I specifically chose this kind of path or occupation in the first place. And with more time and more experience, I believe everything will follow.
Find your purpose.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew my purpose early on. Whatever “job” it was that I decided to do when I eventually grew up, I knew it was going to be centered upon working with and serving my community. This happened in junior high when Father Jose turned my Catholic Church into a social services center for the community. Fast forward to college, I worked as a medical assistant and that’s when I knew I had found my purpose translated into something I can actually do for a living. Eventually, after two tries, I would finally turn this dream into reality, making it into medical school, and knowing even before my first day of school that I would specialize in Family Medicine.
And now, as I am writing this, we are less than 100 days from graduating!!! Unfortunately, also as I write this, we are just past the 100 day mark of the 45th President of the United States’ time in office, the Republicans have the majority of the House and the Senate, and the House just passed the American Health Care Act, aka Republicans’ answer to repealing the Obamacare/Affordable Care Act.
As Dr. Renee Crichlow pointed out in her Closing Talk at this year’s STFM given just a couple hours ago, we are living in interesting times. She instilled in all of us the fact that there is power in leading, and more importantly, there are many opportunities and a unique power in leading as Family Physicians.
“Family Medicine doctors help shepherd change.” – Dr. Crichlow
I wholeheartedly believe Family Docs are at the frontlines of health care. We know first hand and face the daily challenges of our own limited abilities to deliver comprehensive health care, just as many of our patients and communities face multiple and daily barriers in accessing health care. Health care IS complicated! Who knew?! Well, we did. And Dr. Crichlow reminded us this morning that we are the right people at the right time. The right time is now. It is time to advocate for our patients. It is time to advocate for our Family Medicine Specialty and our ability to practice in a way that is sustainable and allows us to provide comprehensive health care to our patients, especially to those who are most vulnerable, underserved, and underrepresented.
Find your people.
Over the span of 4 weeks, I will have the privilege and opportunity of attending 3 different conferences.
- AAFP’s The National Conference of Constituency Leaders
- Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Annual Spring Conference
- AAFP’s Family Medicine Advocacy Summit
Now talk about lucky! It is not common or sane to be able to concentrate these many conferences into a 4 week period. But let me tell you why I love these conferences. Basically, it brings together individuals who are equally, if not more passionate about the same issues and topics as you are AND who are ever more eager and excited to share their experiences and teach one another! You leave these experiences coming away with a new sense of motivation, inspiration, energy….power to put ideas into action and effect change. In other words, it’s like band camp if there was one, for aspiring Family Medicine leaders and change makers. I highly encourage you to surround yourself with people who share your passions. Go find your people.
Find your voice.
Now at this last AAFP NCCL, I had my usual conference game plan. Take it all in and learn as much as I can, get over my shyness and meet as many people as I can, and eat at as many yummy places as I can. But something happened, something I had no intentions of doing. I ran for a leadership position. A position I didn’t even know the exact details of. I suppose it was a combination of the inspiring leaders around me, as well as, the gentle nudging for me to step up. Professionally, I looked at it as an exercise of public speaking and sharing my story. All things that terrify me. But, something came over me, where I realized deep down I was more terrified at the thought of staying silent. I don’t ever want to take for granted my opportunity and freedom to speak up, for myself and on behalf of those who can’t or won’t. I’m still working at this skill of speaking up and speaking louder, but what I am finding out now, more than ever before, is I can’t afford to stay silent anymore.
I have found my purpose, I have found my people, I have found my voice. Now it’s time to help those who are lost find theirs.
“If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?”
― John E. Lewis
Melissa See, MD, MPH is a third year family medicine resident in the Department of Family & Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine.