Delivering Full-scope Family Medicine

June 04, 2018 01:48 pm David Mitchell

There has been a steep decline in the number of family physicians providing maternity care in recent years, and even fewer practice surgical obstetrics. Christina Kelly, M.D., is showing medical students and family medicine residents at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Ga., and the Savannah Family Medicine Residency in Savannah, Ga., respectively, that providing that vital care can be part of their practice as family physicians.

[headshot of Christina Kelly, M.D.]

"It's an area of our scope that's important to serve our patients and communities, especially in rural areas," she said. "I try to give medical students hope that they can deliver babies as family physicians, and some who might have initially thought of OB/Gyn as a specialty choice will consider family medicine instead."

Kelly knew as a student at Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus that she wanted to deliver babies and do C-sections, but she picked family medicine -- rather than obstetrics -- after watching a family physician mentor deliver babies.

"The thing that drew me to family medicine was the ability to take care of the whole family," she said. "I follow mom through her pregnancy, deliver her baby and then care for the baby in my office. I often become the partner's doctor, too. You get to be part of that family. Those are the days that make me feel like such a family doctor."

After completing residency and a rural health/OB fellowship at Tacoma Family Medicine, Kelly stayed in Washington for four years in employed practice with MultiCare, where she was in an OB call group with five fellow family physicians and served as their C-section backup. She later was faculty and director of the Family Medicine OB Fellowship at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas.

As an Army wife, Kelly has made her share of moves during her medical career. Her husband is family physician Kevin Kelly, M.D., battalion commander of the 261st Multifunctional Medical Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C. She currently is faculty at the Savannah Family Medicine Residency and assistant professor and director of the Primary Care Accelerated Track at Mercer.

Kelly, a member of the AAFP Commission on Education, was the first family physician at Savannah's Memorial Health University Medical Center to do C-sections.

"It's exciting to bring that aspect of family medicine to Memorial," said Kelly, who also does women's health procedures, such as colposcopy, loop electrosurgical excision procedure and postpartum tubal ligation. "Everyone has to choose the aspects of family medicine that are going to make their hearts happy. For students and residents who are interested in maternity care, I try to show them that it's possible as a family physician."