Member of the Month: Christina M. Kelly, M.D.

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Member of the Month: Christina M. Kelly, M.D.

New physician finds renewal for specialty through AAFP involvement

posted 06.15.12

Christina Kelly, M.D., currently serves as civilian faculty at the Family Medicine Residency at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. She will also serve as faculty for the new Darnall Family Medicine Obstetrics Fellowship that starts in July. As an Army wife, she has worked in various other settings – as an employed physician practicing full-scope family medicine including obstetrics, and as part-time faculty at a family medicine residency program in Tacoma, Wash.

Originally from Akron, Ohio, Dr. Kelly was awarded her medical degree by The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, where she met her husband, Kevin, the first week. They married the beginning of their fourth year of medical school and both matched in family medicine. Kevin, a West Point graduate who was part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program for medical school, matched in an Army residency program at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma. Christina matched at Tacoma Family Medicine, and after completion of her residency, completed the Tacoma Family Medicine Rural Health Fellowship.

She practiced for five years in Washington before Kevin was re-stationed at Fort Hood and the couple moved to Texas.

Throughout her medical school career, residency, and now as a new physician, Dr. Kelly has been involved in the Academy at the state and national level, and it began when her mentor, Dr. Linda Stone, invited her to the annual meeting of the Ohio AFP and continued through many AAFP conferences, commission appointments, and positions on the Board of Directors and Congress of Delegates.

She encourages all family physicians to become involved. “There are many ways to be involved on the national level that have varying degrees of time commitment. We are all busy, but I have never regretted making the time to go to an AAFP meeting. For me, it is a breath of fresh air, and it reenergizes me. It is a reminder to me of why I am doing what I am doing every day.”

 

Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? I chose family medicine because of the opportunity to treat the whole patient, the whole person, and the whole family. As a family physician, I have an opportunity to make a difference in each of my patients’ lives because I take care of all aspects of their health and their family’s health. For a pregnant woman whom I followed for prenatal care and delivered, when she brings her newborn baby in the office for a two-day check and when her husband often decides to establish care, I think to myself, “I feel like such a family doctor today, and I love it!” As family physicians, we often become part of the families we take care of, and that is in an opportunity many other specialties do not have.

My favorite aspect of family medicine is the relationships we have with our patients. It is a privilege to take care of our patients. Getting patients involved in their health care as part of that patient-physician relationship is also very rewarding. I like to use a shared decision-making model with patients, so they can make informed decisions about their health after I provide them with the appropriate education.

My favorite aspect of my scope of practice as a family physician is maternity care and women’s health. Even though I have done hundreds and hundreds of deliveries, I still see each one as a miracle of life and I still get that warm and fuzzy feeling each time. There is no better feeling than handing a newborn baby to his or her parents for the first time. I also really enjoy teaching residents and fellows. It is rewarding to be able to use what I have learned from my practice and help them become the best family doctors they can be.

Were you inspired by anyone? I was very lucky to have several role models who helped me see how wonderful the specialty of family medicine is. Being involved in the Ohio Academy and the American Academy of Family Physicians as a medical student showed me how family physicians can be strong patient advocates and make a positive impact.

One of my biggest inspirations is Dr. Linda Stone. She was the first family physician I ever met during my first year of medical school when I was taking a medical humanities course. She took me under her wing and mentored me for four years. She was the FMIG advisor and very involved in the Ohio Academy. She empowered me to get involved in leadership and organized medicine, and she showed me how we all can make a difference for our patients as family physicians. When I did a rotation with her, she was the first person I heard talk about the “patient-physician relationship” because the patient comes first. She demonstrated that in her care of patients, and I still use that concept as the foundation of my approach to patient care today. She is retired now, but I still keep in touch with her and get to see her a few times per year. She gives the best hugs, and it is great to continue to be a recipient of them!

What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine? Collaborative.

What makes your patient population unique? Does it present specific challenges? Soldiers represent the best our country has to offer, and it is an honor to help them however I can. Family members, especially of deployed soldiers, live with day-to-day challenges and sacrifice just as much. Helping them through these challenging times is very rewarding. As an Army wife who has been through my husband’s 15-month deployment to Iraq, I can really understand these patients’ concerns, and I am able to use my personal experience to support them through a difficult time. Retirees represent the generations that have allowed us to live with freedom and are some of the most enjoyable patients whom I have ever taken care of.

What are your experiences with advocating on behalf of family medicine or affecting health care policy? As an intern, I was on the AAFP Commission on Legislative and Governmental Affairs (now the Commission on Governmental Advocacy). That experience opened my eyes to the difference we can make by advocating for our patients and our specialty. I attended the AAFP Family Medicine Congressional Conference with other commission members who were influential physician leaders, such as Dr. Roland Goertz. There I learned how to meet with legislators and legislative aids and how to educate them about health care issues. By telling them my patients’ stories or my personal experiences, I could demonstrate to them why a particular issue was important. It was so much easier than I thought it would be!

After I went to that conference a few times, as well as the Tar Wars National Conference and WAFP Policy and Advocacy Leadership Institute Family Medicine Day at the Capitol, many of the legislators and their legislative aids started to remember me. I couldn’t believe it! But, I realized that part of politics is about building relationships, and that is something we are good at as family physicians. Without a large time commitment, I was able to make a positive impact on health care policy by small interactions over time. When I don’t have time to lobby in person, I continue to be involved with advocacy by donating to the TAFP and AAFP PAC and by using AAFP’s Speak Out and Family Physician Alert Network.

How did you become involved in AAFP and TAFP? As a first-year medical student, I was introduced to my state Academy by my mentor, Dr. Linda Stone. She took me to my first meeting and from there I was hooked. As a second-year medical student, I was encouraged to attend the AAFP National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students. It was so exciting to meet other medical students interested in family medicine and family medicine residents. The enthusiasm was contagious! I was inspired to apply for an AAFP committee that year and was appointed.

As a third-year medical student, I built up the courage to run for a position and was elected as AAFP Student Chair of the National Conference. I had the opportunity to attend the AAFP Congress of Delegates as part of that position. This meeting helped me solidify that I wanted to be a family physician, and I wanted to make involvement in organized medicine a long-term part of my medical career. Watching family physicians from all over the country stand at a microphone and passionately advocate for their patients was inspiring. The AAFP’s work for the year is directed by this meeting, and it an amazing process to watch. Students and residents also have a large degree of input.

As a resident, I continued my involvement with the AAFP as a member of a commission, as Resident Delegate to the AAFP Congress of Delegates, and as Resident Member of the AAFP Board of Directors. I gained a great deal of knowledge and leadership development from these positions, and I had many opportunities to impact change. And it was doable as a resident!

During residency, I learned about the AAFP National Conference of Special Constituencies. The AAFP has five special constituencies – women, GLBT, minority, new physicians, and IMG. The AAFP holds this conference every year in conjunction with the Annual Leadership Forum to make sure that these members’ voices are heard. It is such an inspiring conference and I highly recommend it! There are leadership opportunities at that conference as well. I am currently one of the New Physician Delegates to the AAFP Congress of Delegates. I am also a member of the AAFP Commission on Membership and Member Services.

With your experience at the national level and with other state chapters, what do you think about the Texas Academy and our members? When I moved to Texas, the TAFP welcomed me with open arms. I was so appreciative of the staff’s help in getting my membership transferred and providing me with information on TAFP resources and events. I went to my first meeting in March, which was the Interim Session and C. Frank Webber Lectureship. I was impressed by how many family physicians in Texas are dedicated to the delivery of quality health care and what great patient advocates TAFP members are. I can’t wait to go to the Annual Session and Scientific Assembly in July in Austin to get more involved and meet more family physicians from around the state!

What advice would you give to a family physician considering becoming involved on the national level? Go for it! There are many ways to be involved on the national level that have varying degrees of time commitment. We are all busy, but I have never regretted making the time to go to an AAFP meeting. For me, it is a breath of fresh air, and it reenergizes me. It is a reminder to me of why I am doing what I am doing every day. Your input is important! When I first got involved, I never thought that my opinion really mattered to an organization as big as the AAFP. As a student, resident, and now as a new physician, I have learned time and time again that couldn’t be further from the truth. The AAFP needs and wants input from all of its members. It is also a great way to keep up to date on what the nation is facing in regards to health care and to learn how we – as family physicians – can make a difference.

Here are some examples of AAFP opportunities:

  • Apply for an AAFP commission. There are two meetings per year. Active members, residents, and students are all appointed to AAFP commissions.
  • For medical students and residents, I would highly recommend going to the AAFP National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students which is in July or August each year in Kansas City. It is a great time! For medical students, there is a great residency fair! There are leadership positions that both medical students and residents can run for.
  • For new physicians and anyone who identifies with the other special constituencies (women, IMG, GLBT, and minority), I would encourage you to attend the AAFP National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC) in May of each year in Kansas City, Mo. For NCSC, TAFP sends delegates from each of the special constituencies each year, so be sure to check that out for next year. You can also go as a general registrant. Once you go for the first time, you just want to keep going back for more!
  • If any of you are planning to go to the AAFP Scientific Assembly in Philadelphia, Pa., think about coming a few days early to go to the AAFP Congress of Delegates. This is my favorite AAFP meeting. You can go as a general registrant, and it is free! You do not have to be a delegate to be able to attend. Plus, Dr. Lloyd Van Winkle is running for a position on the AAFP Board of Directors this year, and you can come support him!

How do you define leadership? I have two quotes like that define leadership:

  • John C. Maxwell – “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” This moves beyond the position defining the leader, to looking at the ability of the leader to influence others – both those who would consider themselves followers and those outside that circle. Indirectly, it also builds in leadership character, since without maintaining integrity and trustworthiness, the capability to influence will disappear.
  • Warren Bennis – “Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.”

How do you balance life and work? Is it easier or more difficult in a medical marriage? Work as a family physician is an important part of my life and often provides energy and self-renewal. I try to not look at work as taking away from my life balance but rather as an important part of who I am.

In regards to a medical marriage: While my husband may better understand the words and situations I discuss regarding my practice and vice-versa, we have found it is important to be cognizant of talking about things besides medicine. We have also looked to family physician couples to see how they make a medical marriage work. Drs. Glen Stream and Anne Montgomery have been incredible role models for us on how to be excellent physicians, physician leaders, and spouses. They both are very accomplished, and they have very different styles. But, they always make it a priority to support each other in these accomplishments and to do fun, social activities together. Kevin and I try to emulate that.

What do you like to do for fun? Gardening, trying different restaurants, wine tasting, going to concerts, and watching movies


TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month, nominate the physician by sending his or her name, phone number, and e-mail address to kalfano@tafp.org. View past Members of the Month here.