• Award for Excellence in Graduate Medical Education 2018 Winners

    The following family medicine residents were selected for their exemplary patient care, their interpersonal relationships with patients, physicians and faculty, and their demonstrated leadership and community involvement. These 12 men and women are truly health care leaders.

    Mustafa Alavi, MD

    Dr. Alavi’s greatest professional accomplishment to date is working through Family Medicine for America’s Health to conduct a series of national focus groups with fourth-year medical students matching into all specialties. The goal of these sessions was to better understand the students’ perceptions of family medicine and the culture at their respective institutions. In addition to the primary care workforce pipeline, Dr. Alavi’s professional interests include teaching and sports medicine. He is completing his residency in Portland, OR, and enjoys exploring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest through outdoor activities such as running (including participating in marathons), gardening, and camping. As part of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Students to Service Loan Repayment Program, Dr. Alavi plans to work at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in an urban underserved community following residency. He hopes to pursue his passion for education at a site affiliated with an academic health center.

    Christian O. Bengtson, MD

    Dr. Bengtson cites the impact he has on the lives of others and the connections he makes with patients as his most important professional accomplishments to date. For example, when he had a rotation at a VA hospital during medical school, he was able to connect with a troubled Vietnam War veteran who distrusted health care professionals. Being able to break down this patient’s barriers, gain his trust, and positively affect the care he received in the hospital was rewarding for Dr. Bengtson. One of his primary professional interests is continuing to pursue his military service as an Army Reserve physician, and he hopes to serve as a mentor for medics. In addition, he is interested in pursuing further leadership development through the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). On a personal level, he aspires to be the best husband and father he can be. He is also an avid tennis player who enjoys participating in local adult leagues. As a National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholar, Dr. Bengtson will practice in a federally qualified health center (FQHC) that serves an underserved Latino community following residency. Eventually, he would like to be on faculty at a family medicine residency.

    Julie Blaszczak, MD

    Dr. Blaszczak’s greatest professional accomplishment to date is being elected chief resident, and she feels honored that her peers trust her with the position. One of her professional interests is combining her love of medical anthropology with her passion for family medicine. She is also interested in supporting free clinics and other means of serving people in urban underserved areas, both through the practice of medicine and through advocacy. Away from work, Dr. Blaszczak enjoys seeing live music at a variety of venues and is an avid reader, especially of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Having coached soccer for many years in the past, she would like to return to coaching someday, and she also hopes to write a book and visit all of the U.S. national parks. Following residency, she plans to apply for a fellowship that is geared toward physicians who are interested in academic family medicine careers and involves teaching, precepting, developing leadership skills, and contributing to medical school and residency curricula. Eventually, she would like to join the faculty at an academic institution and practice in an urban underserved area.

    Natalie P. Britt, MD

    Being honored with the Physician’s Physician Award as a fourth-year medical student is Dr. Britt’s most important professional accomplishment to date because her classmates selected her as someone who embodies the qualities they would want in their own physician or the physician treating their family. In her professional life, her interests include maternity care, women’s health, and public health and advocacy. She is also interested in academic medicine, particularly teaching medical students and residents. In her free time, Dr. Britt enjoys having fun and playing outside with her husband and sons, volunteering at church, cooking, gardening, and cheering for the Georgia Bulldogs and the Atlanta Braves. Following residency, she plans to either remain in academics as a faculty physician or pursue full-spectrum private practice in one of the smaller underserved communities outside of Savannah, GA.

    Alexandra Gits, MD

    Dr. Gits cites her body of work in health advocacy—particularly meeting with her representatives, organizing community talks, and promoting advocacy in medical education—as her greatest professional accomplishment to date. In addition to advocacy, her professional interests include health policy, leadership education, and health equity. On a personal level, she enjoys reading historical fiction novels, playing yard games, and exploring cities on foot and by bicycle. Dr. Gits plans to work in academic medicine following residency. She also hopes to continue using patients’ stories in advocacy efforts to create change beyond the clinic walls.

    Melissa L. Jennings, MD

    Being elected as chief resident is Dr. Jennings’ most important professional accomplishment to date, and she is eager to continue working to improve her residency program. Among her professional interests are women’s health and obstetrics, procedures, and education that encourages patients to take an active role in preventive health care. Favorite pastimes away from work include boating and fishing (especially in northern Michigan), watching Detroit sports, and spending time with her colleagues. Upon completing residency, Dr. Jennings plans to pursue fellowship training in obstetrics to broaden her skills. She hopes to move to a rural area in Northeastern Michigan and practice full-scope family medicine, including obstetrics and emergency medicine. Her vision is to be an active participant in the community while also having a varied and dynamic practice where she can host medical students or residents who are interested in procedures, obstetrics, or rural practice. Eventually, she would like to have a faculty position and bring the unique skill set that comes from practicing rural family medicine to a residency program.

    Jessica Lapinski, DO

    Dr. Lapinski’s most important professional accomplishment to date is co-leading an effort to expand the clinical practice at Duke Family Medicine Center in Durham, NC, to include an LGBTQ+ patient-centered medical home (PCMH). This project has allowed her to employ a variety of skill sets, grow as an individual, and make positive strides for the local LGBTQ+ community. Her other professional interests include academic pursuits, such as presenting at conferences and authoring articles, and her role as the population health chief resident for 2018-2019. In her free time, Dr. Lapinski enjoys a variety of activities, from working on her Spanish and sign language skills to writing a novel (which she hopes to complete before graduating from residency). A former professional photographer, she still counts photography as one of her passions. She also loves to travel, both to visit family members abroad and to experience new cultures, and she has visited more than 25 countries. Following residency, Dr. Lapinski plans to pursue a career that integrates primary care medicine, advocacy, and research. She is considering returning home to Chicago, IL, and would like to work at an institution that promotes health equity, personal development, and scholarly activity.

    Kyle Leggott, MD

    Being elected president of the Housestaff Association of the University of Colorado Hospitals is Dr. Leggott’s most important professional accomplishment to date. In this role, he has the opportunity to represent and advocate for residents and fellows at the local graduate medical education (GME) and hospital levels. His other professional interests include physician workforce issues; GME reform; health care delivery system innovation and payment reform; and the intersection between health policy and politics (“health politics”). In his personal life, Dr. Leggott enjoys reading science fiction-fantasy books, playing board games with his husband, hiking in the Colorado mountains with his dog, and weightlifting and spending time in the gym. He also likes to travel and try new foods abroad. Following residency, he plans to pursue a junior faculty development fellowship with a focus in health politics. Then, he would like to practice hospital and outpatient family medicine in an academic program and use the skills from his fellowship to pursue his professional interests.

    Sarah J. Matthews, MD

    Dr. Matthews’ greatest professional accomplishments to date are establishing relationships so that residents can perform examinations for asylum seekers and developing a Global Health Area of Concentration for her residency program. In addition to global health, her professional interests include LGBTQ care and palliative care. Away from work, she enjoys hiking, motorcycling, and traveling to new places to experience different cultures. She also loves to spend time with her family and her rescue dogs Maverick and Kuro. Following residency, Dr. Matthews plans to apply to a palliative medicine fellowship. She hopes to practice in an underserved community setting where she can continue her work in advocacy and global health.

    Nayeli A. Spahr, MD, MPH

    Dr. Spahr’s most important professional accomplishment to date as a resident is collaborating with fellow residents at the University of Pennsylvania Family Medicine Residency to form a diversity taskforce and to develop an advocacy curriculum. Her greatest professional accomplishment as a Master of Public Health (MPH) student was developing a program at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in Milwaukee, WI, to provide group well-child visits for Spanish-speaking immigrant families. Among her professional interests, she includes advancing the representation of underrepresented minorities in medicine and facilitating community engagement on health in spaces outside of the clinic environment. On a personal level, she is committed to raising a strong, loving, socially and emotionally conscious family, and experiencing love and laughter in her life. She also enjoys expressing herself creatively by dancing, painting, and playing the ukulele. As part of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Students to Service Loan Repayment Program, Dr. Spahr plans to practice full-scope family medicine at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Philadelphia, PA, following residency, as well as continuing to deliver babies at a local hospital.

    Astrud Villareal, MD

    For Dr. Villareal, her greatest professional accomplishments to date are the times that she has received positive feedback from patients during residency. For example, she recalls how affirming it is to be met with excitement rather than fear when she walks into a patient’s exam room, as well as the satisfaction of hearing that a patient missed seeing her at a previous visit or is grateful for the care she has provided. On a professional level, Dr. Villareal’s interests include community medicine and global health. She also has a special interest in student and resident education, and she was gratified when the two interns that she mentored in 2017 were selected to share the PGY-1 Resident of the Year award. In her personal time, Dr. Villareal enjoys keeping up with new gadgets and technology, playing the drums (a hobby she took up when she started medical school), and spending time with her friends and family. She also loves to travel the world, exploring different cities, taking photographs, trying new cuisines, and meeting new people. In fact, she hopes to travel to Italy with her mother in the near future. Following residency, Dr. Villareal plans to pursue a career in academic medicine that gives her the opportunity to teach and mentor medical students and residents. In addition, she would like to continue pursuing her interests in quality improvement and research.

    James Wang, MD

    Dr. Wang considers representing family medicine residents nationally and internationally as his most important professional accomplishment to date. He served as a delegate to the AAFP National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians Section on Resident Physicians, as well as serving as a U.S. student/resident representative for the North American Primary Care Research Group Board of Directors. In addition to promoting the importance of family medicine in the medical community, his professional interests include teaching medical students and residents and using troubleshooting and technology to improve health care quality and efficiency. Favorite pastimes away from work include volunteering in his local community, enjoying stand-up comedy, and cheering on the University of Southern California Trojans football team and the Los Angeles Lakers. Dr. Wang also has a personal goal of traveling to all 50 states, all four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, every Disney theme park, and at least one Olympics. So far, he has checked 25 states off the list. Following residency, he plans to apply for a fellowship in clinical informatics and then pursue a career either in that field or in academic medicine.