Ellen Wilcoxen 2013 FPO Program
“I found physicians who appear to love their work and have a knack for making the most of any given challenge.”
When switching my major from art history to pre-med at the University of Colorado, I was confident, knowing that a career helping others is always worthwhile. However, I had very little experience in the medical realm. During my first year in medical school, I realized many of my classmates are the sons or daughters of physicians, while I knew relatively no one in health care. I no longer view this as a setback. The Family Physicians of Oklahoma program has been the perfect end to my first year in medical school, highlighting important clinical skills and reaffirming my interest in family medicine.
My Muskogee preceptor, Dr. Brad McIntosh, is what I like to think of as a modern-day country doctor. The kind that is not replaceable, but revered. I was impressed and encouraged to see that he made time to call patients at home, laughed in nearly every exam room, and showed patience and enthusiasm during each visit. When asked by an elderly patient, he was willing to bend his own rules, continuing to care for her as she recovered in a long-term acute care facility that he does not typically visit. In addition to caring for his patients, he is involved in his four children’s education and extracurricular activities, and is active in his church. After hearing him make mention of “cleaning the chickens” before 7AM rounds, his sixty plus growing tomato plants, and building houses as a teenager, I realized Dr. McIntosh truly “does it all”.
While Dr. McIntosh spent a week leading his son’s Boy Scout troop on the Buffalo River, I had the opportunity to work with two other family physicians in Muskogee. It was during this time that I realized the scope a family medicine practice can take. Already with Dr. McIntosh, I had seen everything from C-sections, tubal ligations, and vasectomies to family planning consultations, orthopedic and dermatologic care. With Dr. Bebee I was exposed to the inner-workings of advanced wound care: how to apply skin grafts and wound-vacs, the common causes of amputations and foot wounds, and the mechanisms of current wound therapies such as MediHoney, Apligrafts, and Santyl debridement. Later at his clinic, I was able to perform allergy testing. I then was able to observe endoscopic and colonoscopy procedures with another of his colleagues, Dr. Dansby. Until this time, I was unaware that these were services a family physician can provide. I particularly remember how Dr. Dansby delicately approached educating a 12-year-old girl with her mother about STD and pregnancy prevention. While 12 may seem an early age to begin this conversation, Dr. Dansby did not let the uncomfortable nature of the topic keep him from addressing it when needed, explaining to me later that if you don’t reach them early, you run the risk of missing the chance.
A pervading factor in my decision to join the medical team was the idea of working with underserved communities. I had been to Africa and Central America to do so, and was excited about having a similar experience in my own hometown. Because he cared for many SoonerCare and uninsured patients, Dr. McIntosh was skilled in addressing the monetary concerns of his patients. He took the time to compare the costs and benefits of different treatment options, always giving his honest opinion when asked, while allowing the patient to make informed decisions about their care. He took the time and effort to scavenge his office cabinets for free samples that patients could take home, and consciously matched meds to the Walmart $4 list. This aspect of medicine is not always considered at my level of training, and I am grateful to have had the lesson.
Most importantly, I am thrilled that my original hesitation upon embarking the FPO program was ultimately unfounded. Though I’d hardly admit it to even myself, I feared that I’d find my “dream job” filled with doctors working exhaustingly long hours, chipping away at debt, left unsatisfied after swimming against the tidal wave of chronic diseases. Rather, I found quite the opposite. I found physicians who appear to love their work and have a knack for making the most of any given challenge. While I understand the importance of exploring other options in medicine, I am enthusiastic in knowing that I am one step closer to deciding the path for me.