Career Q&A with Family Physicians: Life and Work in Family Medicine
Meet the Doctors
We are grateful to the men and women who generously shared their stories about life and work as a family physician for our Career Q&A sessions. Learn more about their careers, interests, and community involvements.
DeVry C. Anderson, MD, started his career as a military surgeon, completing an internship in orthopedic surgery before serving in the military. He went back to complete a family medicine residency in 2009 and now serves as a military surgeon for the Warrior Transition Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, and as owner and chief medical officer for Quick Care Walk In Clinic, North Austin, Texas. Dr. Anderson uses his training for the management of simple fractures and common sports injuries, occasionally working the sidelines for high school sporting events. He also has Federal Aviation Administration designation as an Aviation Medical Examiner, which allows him to offer health care to both military and civilian pilots.
Through his two practices, he is able to serve two very distinct medical communities. At his military practice, Dr. Anderson focuses on full-spectrum adult medicine and flight medicine, often seeing issues common to pilots, soldiers and veterans returning from war, including behavioral health and sports injury components coupled with routine health maintenance and screening. The Quick Care clinic serves a predominantly Spanish-speaking and underserved population, and the care is focused on urgent care medicine, patient education and access to care for a population that might otherwise only be able to utilize the emergency room for routine care.
Dr. Joane G. Baumer's 32 years in family medicine have included sports medicine, women's care, and global health initiatives. Dr. Baumer is chair of the department of family medicine at JPS Health Network Family Health Center in Fort Worth, Texas, a teaching clinic for the family medicine residency and geriatric residency that also serves as the international health clinic for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Located in an urban community that serves a diverse population, the department provides clinical services to multiple sites in the county through a centrally located hospital, a surgicenter, a sports and pain clinic, four family health practices, two residency practices, and 19 school-based clinics in neighborhoods.
Regarding her work, Dr. Baumer says, "My passion to help colleagues is what guides most of my service activities. For some time I have felt that physicians need to reach out to one another to stay healthy and engaged in their careers. This has been especially evident with the shortage of physicians and health care clinicians that we are experiencing and will continue to address. With the help of my health network we started a re-entry program for practicing physicians who had not been using their clinical skills due to an interruption in thier careers. This has been engaging and rewarding as we send them out to care for patients once again. I actively participate in the Texas Medical Association Committee on Physician Health and Rehabilitation as well as my county medical association rehabilitation committee and our network physician health committee. I also am a volunteer physician to Project Access, a local nonprofit coordinator for care to indigent patients. At home, I support my physician husband of 40 years whenever I can, play with my grandchildren, work in my gardens, and entertain as a vocalist with or without an audience."
Dr. Jen Brull practices family medicine in a Kansas town of 2,000. Her practice — Prairie Star Family Practice, which she opened in Plainville, Kansas, in 2002 — serves residents in the town and across the county. Dr. Brull collaborates with four other family physicians and three midlevel providers in the community, and the scope of her practice is full, "delivering babies to nursing home, ER to hospice, inpatient and outpatient," Brull said. She describes her practice (and family) as, "very closely integrated into the community. It is not uncommon to see my patients in church or the grocery store. They are my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. They are definitely more than just patients." She also has a special interest in health information technology and quality improvement.
In describing her current involvements, Dr. Brull states, "I am largely involved with community service in the schools. I have three children (one born during medical school, one born during residency and one born during private practice) and enjoy doing things for their schools. We do sports physicials, flu shots, concussion/coach education, sex ed talks — pretty much whatever people ask us to! I am also involved in my church, mostly with music. My family is very musical, so it is an activity we can do together."
Frederick Chen, MD, MPH, joined the faculty of the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2004, after completing the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, a two-year fellowship in health services research. "During that time I developed my interest in combining research with health policy, which led me to work in Washington, D.C., for the federal government," Chen said. Chen was the Kerr White Visiting Scholar in the Center for Primary Care Research at the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and also examined primary care research policy in the National Health Service as an Atlantic Fellow at the Public Health Policy Unit of the University College London. In addition to his position as associate professor of family medicine, Chen has a clinical practice at Seattle's Harborview Family Medicine Clinic. The county hospital serves an urban underserved population in which half of its patients are uninsured, and one-third are non-English speaking. His practice provides prenatal and pediatric care, as well as addresses mental health and social needs.
About public service, Dr. Chen states, "I have and always will enjoy seeing individual patients and building vital personal relationships. But so many problems that contribute to illness are social and societal in nature. I feel like community and public service is an extension of my clinic, and an opportunity to inform and intervene at a level that affects all patients, including the one sitting in front of me. I am currently working with the federal government to implement primary care programs from the Affordable Care Act, such as Teaching Health Centers, which creates new primary care residency programs in Community Health Centers."
Beverly Flowers Jordan, MD, FAAFP, practices family medicine in the rural community of Enterprise, Alabama. She is part of a four-physician partnership that employs a certified registered nurse practitioner and provides ancillary services to its patients, which include the population of the farming community around Enterprise and the local military base. She has a certificate of added qualification in sports medicine, and also serves as chair of the board of directors of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians.
Dr. Flowers Jordan shares, "My community service is motivated by the same desire that motivates me to be a physician — a desire to help others. I believe to whom much is given, much is expected. I am one of the most educated, well-traveled and well-compensated people in my community, and I want to use that for the good of all of those in my community. I work through my church, my children's schools, and our local service league to assist in multiple projects in our community."
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 performs 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 assistants, nurse practitioners and a child development specialist. She is also president-elect of the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians.
About her involvement in the community, Dr.Jordhal-Iafrato states, "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."
Having recently transitioned from private practice in rural Oklahoma to a full-time faculty position at the Univeristy of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, Russell Kohl, MD, FAAFP, brings a full-scope expertise with him to the academic community. Dr. Kohl has been practicing full-scope family medicine for seven years, including surgical obstetrics and endoscopy, with a strong focus on community involvement and public health. His new role brings him to Oklahoma's second largest city, Tulsa, where he strives to prepare medical students to address the health disparities and social determinants of health they will need to treat in their careers. Dr. Kohl served on the AAFP Board of Directors as its new physician member in 2010-11.
Regarding his motivation for service, Dr. Kohl shares, "The same thing that moves me to family medicine — I want to make a difference. Not everything that improves someone's life is medical. Sometimes the friendship and fun of cub scouts, the fitness and teamwork of sports, or the camaraderie and sense of community from Rotary are the things that make the difference our patients need to succeed."
Dr. Jay Lee is assistant program director and director of health policy at the Long Beach Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program. He also does extensive work with the California Academy of Family Physicians, serving in 2011 as secretary-treasurer and new physician director. Dr. Lee has been involved in the California Academy's Family Medicine Revolution movement and has become a very visible family physician in the social media scene, tweeting from @familydocwonk(twitter.com).
The Long Beach Family Medicine Residency Program is a diverse practice settled in one of the most diverse cities in California, Dr. Lee said. The group of physicians and residents practices office-based and hospital-based medicine, as well as non-surgical obstetrics, and covers nursing homes, makes home visits and covers one of the local high school football teams.
In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Lee also holds a master's in public health, specializing in health policy and management.
Dr. Lee states, "Our residency program is the sideline physician for a local high school football team. They were a relatively new team when we agreed to become their sideline docs and it showed. More recently, they have gotten off to an amazing start (5-1) and it has been fun to see the growth in their program over time."
Marc Price, DO, says he was a family physician even before graduating medical school in 1999. In private practice in Malta, New York, Dr. Price worked for a large group practice before deciding to open his own, solo practice. Dr. Price sees about 100 patients per week in his practice, and said it's the clinical patient interactions that attracted him to family medicine. He is also heavily involved in advocacy efforts on behalf of family medicine, serving on the AAFP Commission on Governmental Advocacy and the New York State Academy of Family Physicians Advocacy Commission.
Balancing roles as full-time associate professor at Saint Louis University in Missouri, medical director for the Area Health Education Center (AHEC), and medical director for corrections medicine for the St. Louis County Department of Health, Fred Rottnek, MD, MAHCM, is a family physician on a mission. Dr. Rottnek was already involved in homeless health care when the opportunity to work with corrections came up, and he said he jumped at the chance, "knowing that my population would be similar — people without resources, in particular need of health care and a bit more time."
Through practicing corrections medicine, Dr. Rottnek has seen patients from 8 years old to 80-plus and provided obstetric, gynecological, dental and postoperative care, health screenings and immunization services. "It always surprises me how much preventative health care we provide," Dr. Rottnek said. "We have time with people when their lives have screeched to a halt. Many people suddently realize that the priorities they have held before may need to change, and health often ranks high for reevaluation."
Regarding his motivation for service, Dr. Rottnek shares, "The well-being of all of us depends on the well-being of those of us with the least. I was raised by a working class family, and I was the first of the family, ever, to go to college, much less graduate school. I was modeled the values of caring for others and taking responsibility for those with less. Since I did not have the benefit of growing up in a 'medical' family, my role models were different from many physicians. Much of my greater comfort in community settings springs from this. Also, I have a very public record of living with major depression and some spectacularly odd self-defeating career choices until I came to understand the role of therapy and medication in my well-being. Perhaps, because of all this, I am never far away from the thought that life is hard. Working with others to alleviate that-which-sucks is good."
Mark Ryan, MD, FAAFP, practices family medicine in Richmond, Virginia, teaches, volunteers, travels, and tweets! He is assistant clinical professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, and medical director for the school's international/inner city/rural preceptorship. He works in three different practices. One is the faculty practice in downtown Richmond, where most of the patients are uninsured and receive care under the health system's patient assistance program. He also works in a satellite clinic in south Richmond seeing mostly pediatrics patients, 90% of whom are Spanish-speaking. He also teaches in a free clinic one evening a week, and spent four years working in rural private practice before joining the VCU faculty.
Dr. Ryan is involved in a number of community service activities. He is president of the board of directors for two non-profit organizations, Hombre Medicine(hombremedicine.org) and Dominican Aid Society of Virginia(dominicanaidsociety.com), that provide health care for underserved communities overseas. He is on the board of a third organization, W&M Student Organization for Medical Outreach and Sustainability. He is incoming vice president for communications for the National Physicians Alliance(npalliance.org), a multi-specialty medical organization that focuses on issues of patient access to care, influence-free medical practice, etc., and also serves as the secretary of the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians. In addition, he is one of the founders and the medical director for a project named "Una Vida Sana!", a multi-disciplinary service-learning project in which students from VCU's schools of medicine, nursing, and pharmacy work together to provide cardio-metabolic disease screenings to the Hispanic community in Richmond. This organization usually partners with established community events, and refers patients in need to definitive care to a local free clinic.
Dr. Ryan shares, "The reason I do all these things is because I think medicine is much more than a job; it is a vocation, a calling, and its obligations extend beyond the office. I do not think it is sufficient to do a hard day's work, and then go home and rest for the next day. Our patients' health is affected far more by what goes on outside the office than what happens inside. Social determinants of health, insurance, etc., all have major impacts on health physicians' need to advocate on behalf of our patients' and communities' health in order to help keep people well and ensure the best outcomes we can. This is one reason why I am active on social media; I feel that I should bring my experience and expertise to bear on discussions that I think affect the health of individuals and communities. To me, this is part of the expectation communities should have of their physicians. Whether advocating for or against specific policies, working to provide outreach to marginalized communities, or helping a non-profit further its mission, I feel this is the complete picture of what a physician's obligations are."
Dr. Ryan is active on social media, tweeting from@RichmondDoc(twitter.com) and sharing opinions on WordPress(smhcop.wordpress.com),Tumblr(richmonddoc.tumblr.com), and Blogspot(www.richmonddoc.blogspot.com).
Flora Sadri-Azarbeyejani, DO, MPH, FAAFP, has been practicing family medicine for 7 years, and is currently the medical director of the Community Health Center of Franklin County in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Sadri-Azarbeyejani said the federally funded community health center opened in 1997 to serve the underserved in rural areas of Massachusetts. The area's population includes migrant farm workers and many living in a depressed economy. The medical center has both a migrant farm worker program and an outreach program and three sites. Dr. Sadri-Azarbeyejani's influence goes beyond her local community, as she prioritizes being an advocate for her patients. She has held multiple positions on the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians board of directors, the AAFP Congress of Delegates, and the National Conference of Special Constituencies.
Regarding her community involvement, Dr. Sadri-Azarbeyejani says, "At my town level, I am on the board of health, emergency preparedness committee, and the wellness committee of the regional high school. In the medical community I am involved in the local hospital medical staff and serve on committees such as the community benefits access program. On the state level I served on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians for two terms and then was elected to the position of secretary, which can lead to presidency of the chapter in the future. I have served five years for the National Conference of Constituency Leaders (NCCL), and have been a co-conveaner, and I've served as a delegate for the AAFP Congress of Delegates. I have also been on the legislative committee and a delegate for the Mass Medical Society. You need to be involved, you need to have a voice for those who don't or can't represent themselves. You become an advocate for your patients, your medical community, as well as yourself."
Javier F. Sevilla-Martir, MD, has acquired many titles in his ten years as a family physician. He practices and teaches at the Indiana University Methodist Family Medicine Center, which is in inner-city Indianapolis and serves a diverse community that includes system employees and a significant underserved population. Originally from Honduras, Dr. Sevilla-Martir is bicultural and bilingual, and is able to offer services to Spanish-speaking families, as well as support students interested in learning medical Spanish. Dr. Sevilla-Martir was the 2011 Taylor Excellence in Diversity Award winner, an honor from the university. He serves as an associate professor of clinical family medicine, director of Hispanic/Latino health, international medicine, and global health for the IU department of family medicine, and is assistant dean of diversity for the school of medicine.
Regarding his current community involvement, Dr. Sevilla-Martir shares, "Family medicine is about the community, health promotion and prevention, as well as management of chronic and acute illnesses. There is no better way to learn and teach than through service. As advisor for six different student interest groups and service learning projects, we are often planning and providing health education in the community through health education events, health fairs, and through the student-run free clinic."
Better known as "Dr. Z," Jeffrey Zlotnick, MD, CAQ, FAAFP, practices family medicine and sports medicine across state lines, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Phillipsburg, New Jersey. He's been in practice for nearly 30 years, and sat for the sports medicine Certificate of Added Qualification exam in 1982. Dr. Z became interested in sports medicine after working with a runner, who happened to be insulin-dependent diabetic, with a goal of completing a marathon. Dr. Z helped the runner to adjust his insulin, diet and fluid intake and complete the 26.2-mile race. From there, his interest expanded into taking care of local athletes, becoming the race physician for the Multiple Sclerosis Society's annual 150-mile bike tour, and teaching and giving lectures.
Regarding his current involvements, Dr. Zlotnick shares, "When I lived in Sussex County, New Jersey, I became involved in the United Way, acting as the doctor for their bicycle tour fundraiser. I also rode part of the tour and then set up a small medical area for the riders. From there I became involved with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Northern New Jersey. I rode the tour and was tour doctor for 10 years. I rather enjoyed the challenge of being able to increase my skills to be able to ride 150 miles over two days. I was also responsible for helping set up the rescue crews at the rest stops, informing the hospitals of what we were doing so they'd be prepared, and helping coordinate with the amateur radio groups."
"However, the thing I am the most proud of is the program I created for Special Olympics New Jersey. The New Jersey Academy was approached about 9 years ago by the Special Olympics of New Jersey about developing a program to do pre-participation exams for students at various schools that were not able to see a doctor to be certified. After about 6 months of research I developed a program that made it possible to do station exams for Special Olympics. I had to develop a teaching program — which I took on a road trip to all the residency programs in New Jersey — spoke to legislators about liability issues for the physicians that participated, and worked with the Special Olympics of New Jersey on how to get the students to their facility and get them through the exam chain. This is now what is called MedFest. The primary tenant of MedFest turns the normal pre-participation on its ear: nobody fails! What we do is document the problems and limitations and let Special Olympics design an event that the athletes can participate in using their "Adaptive Sports Program." This has been an incredible success. For the participating residency programs it fulfills the requirements for sports medicine training, participating in community service, and working with a special needs population. We just completed MedFest 12 and to date we have certified almost 800 athletes who otherwise never would have had the chance to participate. My proudest moment was while volunteering at the Special Olympics of New Jersey games in Trenton, New Jersey, seeing a number of athletes we certified participating and seeing some get ribbons. It's an amazing feeling. The program has been so successful that the concept has been adapted by Special Olympics International, U.S. Division."