Melody Jordahl-Iafrato, MD, is a family physician working with North County HealthCare's office in Show Low, Arizona, a federally qualified community health center. In her practice, Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato sees all types of patients from newborns to the elderly, provides obstetrical care and does procedures, among them skin biopsies, cryotherapy, colposcopies and joint injections. Because it is an FQHC, her office sees patients with and without insurance and offers a sliding scale for payment. Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato works with physician's assistants, nurse practitioners and a child development specialist. She is also president-elect of the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians.
Q: What led you to family medicine?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: I grew up in a small town in southern Arizona and knew from the beginning I wanted to be in primary care. During my first year of medical school I went to a dinner hostetd by the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians. Several Arizona family docs spoke, but the one I remember specifically was Dr. Carlos Gonzalez. At the time, he was working in a small community in Arizona and the life he described was what I was looking for, especially the relationships he had with his patients. After that, I got more involved at my school and nationally with the AAFP and just felt like it was the right fit for me. During medical school I tried to keep an open mind, but just never felt quite at home during other rotations. I would get bored seeing the same things all the time or just not feel welcomed like I did within the family medicine community. I knew it was what I wanted to do and that I wanted to practice in a rural area with a broader spectrum of practice.
Q: What is your most vivid memory from medical school?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: Delivering my first baby. It was during my family medicine clerkship and it was a mom whom I had seen for a couple weeks prior, then got to deliver her first baby, a healthy little girl. I also got to see them both in follow-up. Although it was a string of memories, it was something I'll never forget, and it also showed me how different doing OB in family medicine is, versus what it was during my obstetrics rotation.
Q: What is a typical day for you?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: Currently, I work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. I have an hour scheduled for lunch and an hour of administrative time scheduled each day. However, there are days that I see patients through much of that time or am doing charting, paperwork, etc., through at least part of my lunch hour. As I have gotten more proficient with our electronic health records (EHR), though, I am finding I need to use less of my own time to get work done. Although I am not currently working in the hospital, I was until recently still doing some low risk obstetrics, which takes up more time, especially hours on call. I am hoping to start doing this again soon. It is hard to predict those hours though, so it is a time sacrifice I have decided to make.
Q: How have things changed since you entered the field?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: I finished my residency in 2008, and even in that short time, things have changed. Most hospitals now have electronic charts, which usually makes getting records a little easier. In Arizona, there have also been a lot of changes to our Medicaid program, which has affected a lot of patients and also how we have to practice, especially as podiatry and dental are now not covered for adults. There is also a lot more opportunity to interact with other physicians over the internet, especially with social media.
Q: What do you love about your work?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: I love my patients. And my staff. The greatest reward I have is when people tell me they like to see me because I listen and I care. Or when they refer friends or family to me, as it shows they trust me.
Q: What has been the greatest challenge you have faced as a family physician?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: My greatest challenge has been to decide what kind of family doctor I want to be. I want to do OB, but it has made life difficult in some ways. It is something I have discussed with my husband and tried to work out. He knows I love to do OB, yet also like to have the freedom to travel, etc. I started out trying to do it all — outpatient, inpatient, ER and OB. I have realized that outpatient and OB are what I really love, even though I enjoyed the other parts. It took doing the job to find that out, though. And I'd try some of it again, given the right opportunity. For now, though, I'm happy doing mostly outpatient with some OB.
Q: What has surprised you most as a new physician?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: I honestly am not sure what surprised me the most. Maybe the trust people place in me due to my training. We all know we are human and can make mistakes, but to some patients we are the smartest people in the world and can do no wrong. I am also surprised at how often I still get frustrated with some insurance companies when things get denied that I know the patient needs. I feel like I was well-trained and had realistic expectations of practice once I got to that point in my life. There is a lot of non-direct patient care we do that can be hard, but that is part of being a physician.
Q: Are you involved in community service activities, and what motivates you to do this kind of work?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: I am currently a member of Kiwanis International and my husband and I are trying to start a local club. We are also in the process of joining the local Elks Lodge. I enjoy being involved in organizations like this because they give back to my community. It is like taking care of people, just in a different way. I am also a member of the White Mountain Chorale, a volunteer choir in the area. Although we don't do specific community service activities, we perform throughout the community for different events and do our own concerts. For me, it is a way to at least keep a little more enjoyment in my life.
Q: What do you wish you knew when you were in medical school?
Dr. Jordahl-Iafrato: I wish I knew to just be more confident. Even if I didn't know the answer, I should have said what I knew instead of keeping quiet. I am not a quiet person, yet on a couple evals got feedback that I was too quiet and didn't ask enough questions. I felt that as a medical student, I didn't know much, and yet now that I have worked with medical students and as a resident and attending, realize I knew a lot more than I thought I did. The confidence came, just took until during my internship when an attending finally told me to just be confident. I took it to heart. So, even if I don't know an answer a patient asks, I look it up (usually on the spot) and tell them what I find.
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Medical School & Residency
In Their Own Words: Family Physician Q&As
Dr. Melody Jordahl-Iafrato