The 2019 President of the San Francisco Marin Medical Society
1. Why did you choose a career in medicine?
I loved science and math growing up and thought I would be a scientist, but in college, I fell in love with the humanities. Medicine seemed a perfect combination of science and the humanities.
2. How did you choose your medical specialty?
When I was contemplating a career in medicine I spent a summer working with a renowned pediatric surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC. I loved being in the setting of caring for children: I knew that I would work hard as a physician, and intuited that somehow the burden of that work would be lightened because I would be seeing a sick kid rolling herself down a hospital hallway giggling, or watching the transformation from sick to completely well that happens after a pediatric illness. Kids are wonderful teachers about the power of the body, mind and spirit.
3. Why are you a member of SFMMS?
Medicine is in great transition and I believe that it’s vital for physicians and healers to be front and center in all of the arenas in which the details of that change are being decided. I am incredibly impressed with the values, the skills, and the community of SFMMS: I am honored to work with a passionate and generous group of physicians and staff that understands how to advocate for important public health and patient-related concerns.
4. Can you tell us about any goal(s) you hope to accomplish during your term as SFMMS President?
I will bring my own experience, passions, and skills to this role. As such I hope to focus our community on the importance of children to all of us, no matter our specialty, to inspire our members to take an active role in the changes happening within medicine - especially technological changes; and to help us all retain or regain joy in the practice of medicine by highlighting evidence-based wellness practices and also by advocating for operational and policy focus on physician job satisfaction.
5. What are some of the biggest opportunities or challenges you see in health care within the next year, and within the next 3-5 years?
Within the next year, I fear that the continued assaults on the Affordable Care Act and uncertainty about the impact of judicial and legislative actions on the stability of our national healthcare system will leave providers and patients feeling anxious and uncertain, and will likely negatively impact care delivery, the experience of care and caring, and ultimately health outcomes. I suspect this issue will continue to unfold over the next 3-5 years and be a source of stress in our work.
In terms of transforming healthcare, I do believe that the next 3-10 years will see some incredibly exciting opportunities, including the ability to use data to deliver significantly better care, the development of systems that will extend our care from intermittent face-to-face visits to continuous remote care augmented by technology and a team care approach, and also a robust focus on physician and caregiver wellness that I hope will reverse the worrisome trend in that arena. These opportunities will bring great change in the way we practice day to day, and physicians will need to be flexible in order to evolve with the system.
6. How do you balance your work and personal life, and still manage time to participate in SFMMS activities?
My daughter was looking over my shoulder as I answered these questions and she remarked that “Mama, that question looks hard!” And I would agree. In my family life and my career it has been vital for me to have a very clear understanding of my values and make all of my decisions based on those values: at this phase of my career, having flexibility to be present for both my family and the work that I choose to do is vital. That means saying no to many opportunities and being very clear with my boundaries. But I also know that being a part of the transformation of healthcare, keeping the health of patients and physicians clearly in the center of every decision I make and all of the work I do, is vital to me fulfilling my own personal mission.Having clear values and a mission statement based on those values helps all of my decisions become clear.
7. Any advice for new physicians transitioning into practice from residency?
Stay humble. Realize that you cannot know everything and you will make mistakes. Listen to your intuition. And put on your own oxygen mask first.
8. What about you would surprise our members? What’s something we might not know about you?
Once I decided to become a physician, I figured I’d be doing that for the rest of my life. So as an undergraduate I took the bare minimum of pre-med requirements and then spent the rest of my time on wide ranging intellectual adventures in the humanities. I majored in comparative religion and spent a year after college in India on a Fulbright Grant studying a sect of Hinduism, was a ski bum in Vail Colorado for a year, and then produced a documentary-style educational film about cross-cultural health care funded by the Harvard School for Public Health.
Oh, and my daughter wanted me to mention that I’m left-handed and have the ability to make a cloverleaf tongue.
9. If you weren’t a physician, what profession would you most like to try?
Oh wow, that’s perhaps the hardest question yet. I can imagine so many amazing things to learn and do! I do love the visual arts and would love to be a museum curator. I also love story-telling and think that journalism would be incredibly fulfilling.