• Racing Toward a Bright Future

    July 16, 2018 09:41 am David Mitchell – Good luck keeping up with Erin Clark. The medical student leader has a lot going on.

    Attendees at next month's National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students will have a couple of chances to hear from Clark, who will be among family medicine interest group leaders participating in a session on how to present yourself and your organization during the Aug. 2-4 event in Kansas City, Mo.

    Clark also will be one of the AAFP Foundation's Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leaders Institute participants presenting posters related to their award-winning projects. For her yearlong project, Clark surveyed residents of Healing Transitions, a recovery facility for homeless individuals with substance abuse disorders in Raleigh, N.C. The nonprofit facility is using Clark's data to assess what it's doing well and what it could improve.

    Erin Clark

    Clark recently completed her third year at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lillington, N.C., and is taking a one-year break to earn her master's in public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While at UNC, Clark will be one of eight fellows in the Weiss Urban Livability program who together form a team of graduate students from a wide range of fields -- such as city planning, public administration and social work -- working to design a project to positively impact urban livability in their own community.

    Clark, who grew up in San Francisco, said it was important to her to take on the challenge of earning another degree.

    "I grew up in the city," she said. "I'm interested in pursuing a career that brings me back to helping the underserved in an urban environment. I know that I love family medicine, I love being involved in leadership and I want to work with inner-city communities. I'm figuring out what that looks like and how I can blend my interests and passions together in the future."

    Clark's future also will include running, and lots of it. She played lacrosse at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo -- better known as Cal Poly -- where she was a team captain and all-league midfielder, but after college she needed to find something new.

    "I started running to stay in shape and to stay sane in med school," she said. "It helps me focus and helps me stick to a routine."

    What started as a hobby and a few miles a day has turned into something much bigger. During her second year in medical school, Clark made several friends who now have formed a running team.

    "What we're all trying to do is qualify for Olympic trials in 2020," she said.

    Clark was one of the top 100 finishers in the Boston Marathon in April with a time of three hours and one minute in harsh weather conditions. To qualify for the trials, Clark needs to complete a 26.2-mile race in two hours, 45 minutes or less. Her next chance to meet that standard will be in November at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

    So why would a student take on so many challenges in the midst of an already grueling training process?

    "Running allows me to improve myself," she said, "not just as a medical student but as a human being."