As a child, Kathleen Klink daydreamed about becoming a veterinarian. But as so often happens when children grow up, she reversed course as a young adult.
Klink went off to college and completed her undergraduate degree in liberal studies and philosophy. She earned a teaching certificate and spent the next three years corralling energetic preschoolers as a Montessori teacher in Miami.
Then, in her mid-20s, Klink gave in to a long-held desire to study health and prevention. At age 29, she found herself in medical school. She graduated from the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine in 1985 and completed her family medicine residency training at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1988.
Thus began the family medicine career of Kathleen Klink, M.D.
Her first professional position was at the Coney Island Community Health Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The surrounding neighborhood was ravaged by an ongoing crack epidemic. As the center's medical director, Klink spearheaded community projects and initiated quality improvement projects.
She moved on to become associate residency director for family medicine at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.
In 1996, Klink became a founding faculty member of a new family medicine residency program at what now is known as New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. She served as program director there for 10 years.
Her professional medical career also includes work with the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Association of Departments of Family Medicine and the New York Public Health Medical Board.
Klink's resume includes studies published in Family Medicine, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of Palliative Medicine, as well as awards for her work as a student, a family medicine educator and a physician.
In recent years, Klink has earned a reputation as a nationally recognized expert in the area of primary care workforce development.
In 2008, Klink was tapped by (then) Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow. For 12 months, Klink worked with senior health policy staff to evaluate and write legislation that would reauthorize Title VII of the U.S. Public Health Service Act. The focal point of that work was to strengthen the primary care workforce, create access to primary care services and improve minority representation in the health care profession.
The fellowship proved to be a springboard for Klink's next career leap.
In August 2010, Klink accepted an appointment to serve as the Health Resources and Services Administration's director of the Division of Medicine and Dentistry at the Bureau of Health Professions.
There, Klink oversees programs designed to improve the health of underserved communities and vulnerable populations in the United States by helping to ensure the availability of a diverse and culturally competent health care workforce.
AAFP News Now recently spoke with Klink about her duties at the bureau and how her training as a family physician helped prepare her for the role. To learn more about how this FP is making a difference in the lives of her family physician and other primary care colleagues, as well as the patients they serve, listen to the audio file above.
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