By Laci Waner, M.D.
When I was a child, there were two physicians in my small town and both were family physicians. Thus, I based my idea of a physician on these two men: a man who treats each member of an entire family, a community leader, wears boots, has a polished log with a saddle for kids to ride in the waiting room, and has a jar full of stickers and suckers for post-visit rewards. When I asked for a doctor’s kit one Christmas and set up my first clinic for my dolls and toys in my bedroom, it was this idea of a physician that I aspired to be—minus the man part.
As I grew into an adult and started my journey in medicine, I initially strayed from my lifelong interest in primary care. I was drawn to the instant gratification of surgery and the false security in the idea of limited, specific knowledge in a specialty. After exploring my interest in research, I embarked on my time in medical school much the same as any other student. I did not bargain for the expanded education I received from life while completing my school’s pre-clinical courses. The saying “sometimes life happens whether you are a student or not and whether you have a test or not” became more than just words to me. In addition to many educational experiences in medical school, I married my husband, Chris; gained a son we named Kylen; buried my father, Dudley; and gave birth to our second child, Addyx. My third-year rotations, especially the one in family medicine, greatly influenced my decision to pursue my desired specialty. However, they cannot compare to the influence that life imposed.
I believe wellness to be incredibly important to families and communities. I was reared with the idea that culture, education, and wealth cannot be passed on without longevity of generations, and wellness is at the heart of these things. My father taught me that one of the reasons my family and ancestors had struggled was due to the fight for wellness. With length of life in the generations of a family, the older generations can support the younger ones while passing on culture, education, wealth, and the ability to focus on wellness that they worked during their life to attain. When the life of an elder is cut short, the family loses this part of its richness. When the life of a child is cut short, the family loses a part of its future. When a family is disabled by disease, it weakens the foundation of the future and cripples the richness of the past. This idea sparked a passion in me for caring for all generations of a family, especially in underserved, uninsured, and minority populations.
This passion intensified into a fire when my father died unexpectedly in November of my second year. My choice of specialty has mirrored the gauntlet of grief I endured. I initially moved away from family medicine, feeling that it was too much responsibility, too much knowledge was needed, and I lacked the ability to cut myself off from caring. I saw family medicine as a potentially overwhelming, heartbreaking specialty. Fortunately, I had a moment I refer to as my epiphany moment during my family medicine clerkship orientation. It occurred when the speaker used the quote, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I realized I could not only “handle” family medicine, but I could excel for my patients as a family physician because I care and am passionate about their health and future.
I will never know everything, and I will walk hand-in-hand with families and grieve at times, but I will continue learning and working hard for each patient because I care. When I close my eyes and picture myself and my family 10 years from now, I envision a full scope family medicine practice in a rural Texas town complete with a jar full of stickers and a log horse. I see myself coaching my kids’ soccer teams, going on health mission trips, representing my town and patients at family medicine conferences, and advocating for wellness and healthy living in men, women, children, families, and my community.
Laci Waner, M.D., is a first-year resident at Texas A&M Family Medicine Residency in Bryan, Texas. She is a graduate of UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.