• GME Award Winner: ‘It’s Never Too Late’ to
    Chase Dream

    May 14, 2024, David Mitchell — Christine Lomiguen, M.D., MSMEd., was entering her final semester as an undergraduate at Rutgers University when a friend asked if she was interested in a medical mission trip to Nicaragua.

    “I said, ‘Absolutely not. Why would I do that?’” said  Lomiguen, who had completed internships at Merck and Co. and VaxInnate Corp. and was in the process of applying for biomedical engineering jobs.

    The friend countered that January weather was pleasant in Central America compared to New Jersey, and their hotel would be on the beach. Lomiguen relented, agreeing to “one last college experience” that led to more than a decade of additional education and training.

    “It was life changing,” she said of the two-week trip. “I shake my head every time I think about how much it changed everything.”

    Prior to her trip, Lomiguen attended a career fair at Rutgers where products like Tylenol were handed out by the bottle. In Nicaragua, she witnessed a physician tear an envelope into scrap paper for writing prescriptions because supplies as basic as paper were in short supply.

    “I remember following some doctors at a maternity clinic, and women who were 36 weeks pregnant were trying to climb a hill that had no stairs to get to the clinic for checkups,” she said. “We had the next day off, and my friends were like, ‘Let’s go to the beach.’ I was engineering minded,  and I said, ‘No, let’s get a shovel and make some stairs. We came here to help people.’”

    Once back home in New Jersey, lab work lost its allure.

    “I realized I was trapped in a lab talking to beakers, begging cells to grow,” she said. “I was by myself, mixing things together, coming in at 3 a.m. to check on my cells. I realized I preferred interacting with people.”

    Lomiguen completed her engineering degree, but her career path was about to change drastically. The daughter of Filipino immigrants, she attended Our Lady of Fatima College of Medicine in Manila, graduating in 2015. But like many international medical graduates, Lomiguen found it difficult to find the next step in her training.

    After failing to match with a residency program, she turned to teaching, including two years as a clinical instructor in pathology at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York and later at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania.

    Her family’s experience during the pandemic provided the inspiration that led her to family medicine and another shot at the Match.

    “I had originally thought internal medicine or even surgery because I have this mechanical, engineering-like thought process and background,” said Lomiguen, whose father was hospitalized for more than a month with COVID-19. “What was interesting about my dad’s family physician was that he had no involvement in his COVID-19 care until he was out of the hospital. But while my dad was in the hospital, he kept calling every few days, asking how my mom was doing and how we were doing. It just made such a difference to have this primary care doctor really care. I learned the importance of keeping in touch with your patients, talking to their loved ones, treating the whole family. That was really a big deal for me.”

    By 2020, Lomiguen had earned her Master of Science in Medical Education at LECOM and was an assistant professor and assistant director of pathology at that school. She went through the Match again, matching to LECOM Health’s family medicine program in 2021.

    That student who initially struggled to match is now her program’s chief resident, a member of her hospital’s graduate medical education research committee, family medicine representative to the graduate medical education committee and chair of the residency forum.  

    After graduating in June, she will begin a sports medicine fellowship at LECOM Health that is affiliated with the athletics program at Allegheny College. She also is working toward a doctor of philosophy in medical education at LECOM, which she expects to complete next year.

    Lomiguen ultimately hopes to continue teaching students and residents.

    “I have the opportunity to teach in a lecture hall of 200 medical students, which means I’m helping to generate 200 more physicians like me and sharing my knowledge,” she said. “Being a family doctor and developing that one-on-one, patient-physician relationship is awesome, but I can only reach one patient at a time. Being able to share what I’ve learned through teaching allows me to have a bigger reach, impacting hundreds in a lecture hall at a time. I want to continue to play that role to shape the next generation of doctors.”

    Lomiguen was one of 12 residents recognized with the AAFP’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Medical Education in 2023.

    “Things change, and life can throw you curveballs,” said Lomiguen, 37. “Just follow what’s in your heart. If something catches your attention and you realize you can’t live another day without working towards this next goal, then go for it. It is never too late. I feel lucky that I’ve had the mentors and the encouragement to get to this point.”

    The application deadline for this year’s GME Awards is May 19. Winners receive a $2,500 scholarship in addition to airfare, hotel accommodations and registration for the 2024 Family Medicine Experience, which is Sept. 24–28 in Phoenix.

    Lomiguen was clicking through the AAFP’s website in 2020 while applying to residencies when she first learned about the GME Awards.

    “I remember looking at all the award winners and thinking, ‘Look at all the great things that they’re doing. I hope that by the time I’m in my second or third year, I can say I’ve accomplished that much, too,” she said. “I encourage residents to apply. They might not think they’re an all-star, but neither did I. I thought, ‘Hey, let me put my experiences out there and see what happens. There are so many residents like me who have their own story and their own unique backgrounds, and they need to be heard. You never know who you may inspire.”