Family Medicine Doctor
Just over ten years ago, I was writing personal statements for residency programs. Sometimes I go back through those statements and remember where I was then, and what life is like now. I remember specifically thinking that I wanted to pursue Family Medicine as a specialty because I wanted to care for a whole family; I wanted to help deliver babies and then see them grow up. I also thought that Family Medicine would fit in well with Global Health. Back then, I imagined a life with a good fit and a nice balance, and for the most part I am doing what I hoped to do. Real life is sometimes a bit more exhausting, often a lot more fulfilling, and always more amazing than I could have imagined. It’s vivid, impactful, chaotic, and overwhelming.
A couple weeks ago, I was helping a woman manage her thyroid and low mood when she mentioned that her baby had a near-drowning experience the week before. After listening to her struggles with the experience, I heard her saying that the child had a cough the last night. We were heading into the weekend, so I mentioned that this would be about the time that pneumonia could develop from inhaling liquid. We were going into the weekend and I wouldn’t be around physically, so I wrote a prescription for an x-ray that she could use at any time, and sent her off with a prayer for mother and child.
She emailed me the next day, saying that she had gotten the xray and that it showed pneumonia. I didn’t notice her message at first, I was busy opening the gate for a meeting about community development and another about mentorship and health systems in Malawi. This woman’s adopted brother is one of the few patients who has my phone number, and he dropped me a quick message just to let me know that she had gotten the xray and sent me an email about it. I knew that my patient had brought his mother and father and friend to see me, but I didn’t even know he was connected with this other family. “I guess you’re officially my Family Doctor” he said.
After a couple weeks, mother, child, and entire family are doing better, and my patient and his parents are also optimizing their health. I’m not really delivering babies, but I do have dear patients and whole families who I have walked alongside for 5 years now. It’s the concept I imagined when I went into Family Medicine, but it makes all the difference now that I’m not just imagining caring for patients but actually sharing life with people I know and care for and share journeys with.