« Is Anybody Out There... | Main | Keeping It Real:... »

Tuesday Jul 22, 2014

Like Father, Like Son: How I Raised a (Future) Family Physician

Like many small-town family physicians, I've volunteered over the years as a team doctor for our local school's athletic teams. On Friday nights, I often found myself on the sidelines, watching football and cheering on the local team (which often included many of my patients). More often than not, my son Brett would tag along, soaking up anything there was to learn.

On one particular fall evening, one of our players was badly injured, and I hurried onto the field to evaluate his condition. In retrospect, I probably should have paused just long enough to tell my son, who was about 7, to stay put.

Last weekend I represented the AAFP at the Nebraska AFP's board meeting. My son Brett, left, is a student member of our state chapter's board of directors.

As I kneeled next to the injured young athlete, I heard a small voice from behind me say, "Dad, there's blood."

That's Brett. Always eager to experience and learn something new. It wasn't the last time he got an up-close view of his dad trying to help someone who needed it. We've lived in a few small Nebraska towns that lack urgent care facilities and hospitals. So when people needed help in a hurry, they often call me directly. If Brett was with me I got one of those calls, he often came along to the office.

I remember one day when Brett was about 10, a young girl fell and needed stitches in her chin. Brett and I were out running errands when I got the call, so we went straight to my office to meet the girl and her parents. With the permission of the patient and her parents, Brett watched me clean the wound and stitch it closed.

Through these types of encounters, Brett learned not only about medicine but about the importance of building relationships with patients, families and the community.

As a high-school student, he participated in a medical interest group and expressed interest in becoming a family physician. He followed up on that by shadowing other family physicians in our area.

When he enrolled in a college halfway across the country, I thought he might come back with plans to become a subspecialist because although Brett has seen all the positive things that family medicine has to offer, he is aware of the payment issues and other challenges we face, as well.

He also knows the time demands of being a family physician. One year, Brett and I signed up for a father-son basketball camp. The night they were taking photos of the sons with their fathers, I got tied up at work and was late. The other kids got a nice memento to remember the fun experience they shared with their dads, and Brett got a photo of himself. Alone.

But Brett has stayed the course. Now in his fourth year at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, he is a student member of the Nebraska AFP Board of Directors. This past weekend, I represented the AAFP at the Nebraska AFP's annual meeting, and my son was there as a member of our state chapter's board. It was a proud moment, and Brett has given me plenty of those.

He's served as president of the Student Alliance for Global Health and in the student senate at UNMC. But the point of this post isn't just for me to say how proud I am of my son. It's to point out the importance of mentoring. Brett obviously got an early start, but if we expose students -- in high school or college -- to the broad scope of family medicine and show them the relationships we develop with our patients, they will understand and value what we do.

And some, no doubt, will follow.

Robert Wergin, M.D., is president-elect of the AAFP.

Comments:

Congratulations, Dr. Bob. That is so cool. And I should know. Both my boys are now Board Certified specialists in family medicine. And both daughters are health professionals (a new dentist and an ophthalmology resident.) They tell me they were quietly impressed with how much I enjoyed doing what I do, and I know that's exactly what your son is seeing. There is no perfect specialty. But this fits so many more medical students than are currently choosing. So we need to keep focused on the joy of our profession and live the moments.

Posted by John R. Carroll,MD on July 24, 2014 at 03:03 PM CDT #

Nice post; and shows the influence of a good environment and how nurturing guides our children to right path. Be it medicine or any other field. Family Medicine career has its own ups and downs, but none like it in medical field as far as its broad scope is concerned and how much a community depends on it for its basic needs.

Posted by Mohsin Jafri on July 25, 2014 at 11:53 PM CDT #

You must be logged in to post a comment. Login

Search This Blog


Sign Up


Subscribe to receive e-mail notifications when the blog is updated.

Email address:

Feeds

Disclaimer

The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.