Medical Student Anna Askari Tells Her Family Medicine Story

According to her facebook page, Anna Askari is a "second year medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine interested in pursuing a career in Family Medicine." As reported by the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, Anna has been selected by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to receive scholarship to attend the Family Medicine Congressional Conference (FMCC) from April 18-19, 2016 in Washington, DC.

I was curious about and I wanted to gain insight on Family Medicine's future leaders. I was honored that Anna accepted my invitation for the following interview below. My questions are in the bold print. I've talked a lot about the Family Medicine Revolution before. This medical student articulately paints the picture of Family Medicine advocacy. Here is Anna Askari, in her own words...

1) Why Is Family Medicine your speciality, and why should every medical student consider Family Medicine? Family Medicine is my specialty, because it is really the reason that I went to medical school. The career that I envisioned as a physician was specifically that of a family physician. My mentor, Dr. Maria Riza Conroy, who is a family physician at OSU Family Medicine at Carepoint Gahanna as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at OSUCOM, has inspired me from the beginning of my undergraduate career. She established the Helping Hands Free Medical Clinic in Columbus and another free clinic in her home country of the Philippines. She is dedicated to caring for the medically underserved. Shadowing her at Helping Hands during my undergraduate career made me realize that family medicine is the best area within medicine for me. I love the diversity of patients, and that unlike other specialties; I am afforded the opportunity to really get to know my patients and their families.

Every medical student should consider a career in family medicine not only because of the rewarding longitudinal relationship that you get to have with your patients, but also because of the vast number of different opportunities you get to practice medicine and be involved in your community. Not only do family physicians get to see and experience a number of different diagnoses and procedures through their practice, but they also get to do things such as policy and advocacy work from a local and national level. The sky is the limit with this specialty, and I love that I will never be bored while serving my patients doing such rewarding and important work. 

2) You are a member of the Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG) at The Ohio State University. Highlight one of the awesome programs that the organization does during the year for medical students, and how does this help share the Family Medicine story to medical students?

I actually just passed on my duties as President of the FMIG at The Ohio State University School of Medicine (OSUCOM) recently. One of the programs that we had this year was during National Primary Care week last October. Our Vice President was in charge of planning the week, and she partnered with other primary care interest groups at OSUCOM (internal medicine, pediatrics, OB/Gyn, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and internal medicine/pediatrics).

At many schools, National Primary Care Week is primarily and executed by the American Medical Student (AMSA); however, this was not the case at OSUCOM. The Family Medicine department plans the entire week from beginning to end, and this year it became one of the primary responsibilities of our Vice President. Each group hosted a themed lunch panel to expose the first and second year medical students to the specialty.

Our FMIG lunch talk featured Dr. Ryan Kauffman from Hickory Medical DPC, to discuss the concept of Direct Primary Care with our students. Dr. Kauffman spent about two hours with students discussing DPC in an informal question-and-answer format. DPC is a type of primary care billing and and payment arrangement between patients and providers, without sending claims to insurance providers. It has recently became very popular with medical students and residents going into primary care specialties, such as family medicine. It was a successful way for us to introduce the diversity of family medicine to medical students who may not realize that the specialty is more than just an outpatient experience that they are used to seeing growing up with their own primary care provider. 

3) Congratulations on receiving one of the scholarships to attend FMCC! For those Family Physicians who are not familiar with the conference, how would you describe the meeting, and why did you apply for a scholarship to attend the meeting?

Thank you so much! I am really excited and honored to have the opportunity. AAFP together with the Council of Academic Family Medicine hosts FMCC each year. It will be held on April 18-19, 2016 in Washington, DC with the goal of educating participants on family medicine's legislative priority issues, train attendees on how to lobby on Capitol Hill, and allows participants to put these skills to use with federal legislators and their staff.

I first heard about this scholarship from one of my mentors, Dr. Sarah Sams, who is currently Chair of the AAFP Commission on Governmental Advocacy this year. She is attending the conference as well, and thought it would be a great experience for me as a medical student. Another mentor, Dr. Allison Macerollo, who is the advisor of our FMIG at OSUCOM also encouraged me to apply. I applied for this scholarship, because I wanted to explore the policy and advocacy side of medicine. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in political science before I started medical school here. The conference is the perfect opportunity to combine my interest in medicine and politics and explore this area of family medicine.

4) As a medical student, what are 1-2 of the issues that concern students whether it be from a personal standpoint, legislative standpoint, or health policy standpoint? What skills do you hope to learn when you attend FMCC to address these medical student concerns?

Based on my experience as a medical student, the one issue that should concern students the most is the shortage of graduate medical education training spots. Our country is continuing to face a nationwide shortage of physicians for a growing older and sicker population. There are more and more medical students graduating from medical school, but there are not enough residency spots to meet the national demand for physicians and these students graduating from medical school. Funding for graduate medical education comes from the US government, and unfortunately there are proposed cuts to the already inadequate budget. This means that each year more medical students are not matching into a residency program, which translates into having fewer physicians meeting the increased demand for physicians. This is not only an issue now, but will continue to be an issue in the next 10-20 years.

5) Finally, why do you think Family Medicine is the group to lead the change locally, at the state level, and nationally?

Family Medicine is the group to lead change, because it is the medical specialty that always puts the patients' needs before the physicians' needs. One of my mentors is a past OAFP President and family physician who has attended FMCC for several years. She tells me that members of Congress would always tell her that they are so impressed with the family physicians that they see lobbying on Capitol Hill. Other physician specialties are more concerned about issues that affect the physician directly, and put the needs of their patients second to that. Family Physicians, however, lead the discussion by advocating for their patients. It is one of the reasons why I Love Family Medicine.