Q&A With Laura Yeater

Ohio Medical Student Eager to Practice Rural Family Medicine

October 02, 2017 02:19 pm Michael Laff

Laura Yeater, a second-year medical student at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) in Rootstown, is choosing family medicine because of what the specialty offers to communities and the long-term relationships it allows physicians to have with patients.

She recently spoke with AAFP News about how she came to her decision.

[Second-year Northeast Ohio Medical University student Laura Yeater]

Second-year medical student Laura Yeater presents research on how video monitoring affects the feedback residents receive from preceptors during the 2017 Annual Poster Day for Northeast Ohio Medical University’s Summer Research Fellowship Program.

Q: What did you find attractive about family medicine that other specialties did not offer?

A: What triggered my interest was the wide range of things you can do as a physician. Initially, I thought family medicine was just caring for colds, giving patients their immunizations and sending them off on their merry way. I found out during medical school that family physicians can deliver babies, do minor procedures and specialize in a variety of ways.

One of the biggest benefits of family medicine is being able to know your patients on a personal level and maintaining contact with the patient's entire family. Patients bring their kids in, and years later you see their grandkids. I'm from a small town, and I love getting to know people and being part of the community. Family medicine allows you to build relationships with a lot of people and truly integrate with the community.

Q: How have you seen medical students making their decision about choosing a specialty?

A: The big factor is finding a mentor in medical school or an individual in the community they can relate to. At NEOMED, we have a very strong family medicine department. The faculty carry great influence on a daily basis. Other students are looking at the financial aspect. When students enter medical school, they think about how they will be looked upon in their careers and want to do something honorable. I'm going to be doing primary care. It is grand and glorious, but it's not always talked about that way.

Personally, I considered a lot of factors while trying to figure out what specialty I wanted to do and I thought about finances, lifestyle and prestige, but in the end, I needed to get out of my own way and find out what was the right step for me. Family medicine aligned with my values and the things that are important to me as a person, so it was an easy decision. I also think family medicine is a calling, and I believe that some people are genuinely called to be a family physician and serve certain communities, myself included.

Q: Who was most influential person in terms of your choice of family medicine as a specialty?

A: There are two physicians in Ohio who I really admire for the relationships they built with their patients. Julie Jones, M.D., in Ashland, and Michael Sevilla, M.D., in Salem. Dr. Jones works for University Hospitals Samaritan Medical Center. She did what I want to do, which is move back after residency and work close to my hometown.

I shadowed Dr. Sevilla last year as a first-year medical student. He had a cool office and a cool practice that made me more interested in family medicine. They both genuinely cared about their patients and knew their patients' life stories. They both told me stories and taught me how to relate to patients.

Q: What kind of family physician do you want to be?

A: I'm from a small town in Ohio -- Ashland -- so I'd like to go back and see the whole range of patients from infants to the elderly. I want to be part of the community and take care of people, be involved in the school board and practice the full scope of family medicine. My goal is to handle minor procedures, deliver babies and see all patients, not just elderly or pediatric patients.

I'm in a rural pathway at school and a received a primary care scholarship, Choose Ohio First. It is an education-for-service scholarship awarded to students who agree to practice in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics or geriatrics. The participating student agrees to take Medicaid patients and work in Ohio for at least three years after completing residency. It pays $30,000 per year for a total of $90,000 over the last three years of medical training.  


Q: What can you do as a family physician that you cannot do in other specialties?

A: During my summer internship at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio, I did several rotations in internal medicine, hematology and oncology, pediatrics, infectious disease, hospice medicine, and other specialties. Based upon these experiences, I found that family medicine is the only specialty where you have the autonomy and enough time with patients to practice the way I want to practice.

It is the only specialty where you are not forced to just move from one patient to the next. You are able to have a long-term relationship with your patients. After doing the rotations, I was pretty confident that I was going to do family medicine, but it was just a matter of double-checking and getting that confirmation.

Q: Was there any patient encounter or rotation experience that reminded you about the unique nature of family medicine?

A: One experience I had when I was working with Dr. Sevilla stands out. He sent me in to the patient room ahead of him to talk to a middle-aged woman. I expected the patient to be in the office for a cough and planned to ask about her medical history, listen to her lungs, then ask if she had questions and consult Dr. Sevilla so we could do everything again together. The patient told me about her chief complaint, which was a cough and sore throat, but she also discussed several personal issues. She cried and kept saying she needed to get it off her chest. I listened and tried my best to comfort her and counsel her, but in the back of my head I was wondering why Dr. Sevilla hadn't come in to check on what was taking me so long.

When I reported back to Dr. Sevilla, I was surprised to see that he was also leaving his patient's room. He explained that the patient he believed was coming in for a checkup had a very similar story to my patient's story. His patient wanted to talk about something very personal and ask for his advice.

It hit me then that family medicine is so much more than taking care of physical ailments. Family medicine is being a counselor and a friend. It is about being someone that patients can depend on and trust. Yes, these women came in to see the doctor because they needed something from him, but what they really needed was for him to listen, care and provide support. They looked to him for his opinion, and he truly cared about them.

This is what makes family medicine so special. You never know what a patient is coming in for, and as their doctor, you have the potential to do a lot of good and help people in more ways than we can imagine. This is why I want to be a family physician.

Q: Did the need for more family physicians in rural areas influence your decision?

A: Yes, it definitely influenced my decision to do family medicine. There isn't a need for (sub)specialists in communities like mine, so that eliminated a whole branch of medicine before I even thought about it.

My grandparents recently moved to Ashland from Toledo and were shocked to discover how difficult it was to find a primary care physician. The majority of them were not accepting new patients. This was one of my first lessons about health disparities in rural areas. In medical school, they taught us about health disparities in urban and rural areas, and I was surprised because I thought that was how medicine is for everyone.

Primary care physicians in rural areas play a special role. You may be the only physician a patient sees, and it often falls on your shoulders to figure out their cardiovascular, psychosocial or neuropathic diseases that are normally referred to a specialist. This is something that really excites me about rural primary care. I am excited to take on the role of managing patients physically, mentally and emotionally. I want to be involved in my community and see my patients at the grocery store, at football games and at church.

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