Member of the Month: Lisa Doggett, M.D., M.P.H.
Austin physician “makes a difference” by caring for the underserved
A practicing family physician for nearly 10 years, Lisa Doggett, M.D., M.P.H., is the director of the University of Texas Wellness Center and a clinical associate professor at the UT School of Nursing. The center provides medical care for Travis County residents without private insurance, and Doggett also directs their Women’s Wellness Program, which provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings. With the School of Nursing, she supervises and provides consultations to nurse practitioners and other staff, co-teaches a course on chronic disease, precepts nurse practitioner students, and serves as a regular guest lecturer for other courses.
Doggett feels drawn to serving the underserved and indigent. She previously worked as a family physician with People’s Community Clinic in Austin, a care setting for uninsured and underinsured Central Texans, and she and her husband Don led the effort to create Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility, part of a national nonprofit committed to promoting a healthy environment and sound national security policies. She currently serves as the Austin PSR board co-president.
Doggett received her undergraduate degree in political science from Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., and was awarded a Harry S. Truman Fellowship for public service. She was awarded her medical degree by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and completed a family medicine residency at the University of Cincinnati. During medical school and residency, she participated in electives and medical service trips to areas such as Costa Rica, Honduras, and Brazil. Doggett received her Master of Public Health from the UT Health Science Center in Houston.
Tell us a little about yourself and your career. I’m 38 years old, the mother of two little girls (ages 4 and 6 ½), and I’ve been a practicing family physician for almost 10 years. I grew up in Austin but never expected to be lucky enough to live my adult life here. I met my husband Don when I was a freshman at Amherst College and he was a sophomore at MIT. We both attended Baylor College of Medicine and then went to residency at the University of Cincinnati. He current works as a pediatric hospitalist at Dell Children’s Hospital here in Austin.
I decided to become a doctor because health is so vital to a person’s quality of life and it is a profession I could practice all over the world. My real passion is indigent care, and though I worked briefly in a private-practice setting, I have been fortunate to have spent most of my career caring for the underserved.
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? I chose medicine as a career because I wanted to help people — to “make a difference” — and I didn’t want to be behind a desk all day. I wanted to interact with people directly. I chose family medicine because I love the diversity of patients and the variety of problems I deal with every day. I also enjoy treating multiple generations from the same family.
How would you define the mission of your practice? I currently direct a clinic called the UT Family Wellness Center, operated by the UT-Austin School of Nursing. Our mission is to partner with the community to provide comprehensive health care to low-income patients without private insurance while incorporating student clinical teaching and faculty research in a cost effective, evidence-based health care delivery system. We aim to provide the highest quality of care possible with an emphasis on wellness and disease prevention.
It’s my dream job because I can continue to see patients, but I also get to teach and think creatively about clinic operations. And I don’t have to deal with insurance companies!
What unique challenges does your patient population present? My patient population is endlessly challenging and always interesting and unpredictable. I have patients who are illiterate, many if not most suffer from mental illness, and all of them are low income. Many are in crisis when they come to my clinic, and they lack the resources and know-how to problem solve and follow through with a treatment plan, in many cases. I try to find their strengths, engage them as a critical part of the care team, and set realistic goals. We don’t always succeed, but I try to never give up on anybody.
If you could change one thing in your field or in health care as a whole, what would it be? I would deemphasize the focus on seeing as many patients as possible each day and focus instead on quality — quality outcomes and quality physician-patient relationships. I can’t really help someone unless I take time to really listen and understand them and their circumstances. Too often, our priorities are misplaced.
Does being the daughter of a U.S. Congressman affect your practice or outlook on medicine? I grew up in a family where public service is a way of life. Both of my parents have devoted their careers to public service (my dad in government; my mom in education and advocacy for people with disabilities and young children). I am extremely proud of the work both of my parents have done, and I feel that perhaps their greatest gift to me is an excellent work ethic. They also taught me to “live my values,” as they both have done so well.
How do you define leadership? A good leader provides guidance and inspiration to others, helping them to reach their potential and goals, often as a group working together. A strong leader is visionary, but also practical and organized; she or he also knows when to step aside and let others lead.
How do you spend your free time? Free time? What’s that? Did I mention my two kids? They take virtually every bit of my time when I’m not working at the clinic. They are a lot of fun, and we like doing art projects, enjoying Austin’s vibrant live music scene, and spending time outside. We also enjoy a lot of family activities, including the occasional political rally, press conference, or fundraiser. I also am addicted to exercise, and I never miss a day without going for a run, swim, bike ride, or workout on the Stairmaster.
Finally, my husband and I helped start the Austin chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) back in 2003, and I’ve been very involved in PSR activities ever since, focusing especially on advocating for a clean environment.
What is your favorite family tradition? We have so many. I love spending holidays with my parents, sister and her family, and of course my husband and kids. We also try to travel together at least once a year — I’ve been all over the world with my husband and parents. On the many weekends that my parents are in Austin, we almost always fit in a family meal and/or a bike ride around the lake.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. View past Members of the Month here.