Member of the Month: Larry Kravitz, MD
Beloved preceptor encourages family docs to help teach the next generation
By Samantha White
Larry Kravitz, MD, is a family physician with Austin Regional Clinic, where he’s been in private practice for 34 years. He also has a great passion for teaching, having served as a preceptor to many medical students over the years for Baylor College of Medicine, UT Southwestern, and now also as affiliated faculty at Dell Medical School.
TAFP articles by Dr. Kravitz
Who or what inspired you to become a family physician?
Hard to say. It was the 1960s. Everyone wanted to save the world. It was the Peace Corps. It was John Kennedy saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” My father never went to college, he sold auto parts, but my parents believed in education and doing something meaningful with your life. And though my brother went to college to be a diplomat and I went to be a chemist, we both came out as family physicians, in a profession where you would go to work every day to make someone’s life better.
Can you briefly describe your career path?
I heard an esteemed physician say recently that a good physician has to always be a little terrified of medicine. When I finished family medicine residency, I still didn’t feel secure enough to go out and practice medicine. There really weren’t any fellowships back then. I asked my mentor and program director at the time, Dr. Whit Curry, whether I could stay for an extra year of residency, but he refused and put me on the faculty instead. I stayed for five years as an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Florida. Eventually, I married a beautiful human being, my wife Laura Perez, and followed her back to her family in Austin.
I interviewed with Dr. Norman Chenven of Austin Regional Clinic and found his vision of a group practice devoted to an affordable, comprehensive health care system for the Austin community exactly in line with my hopes for medicine. I have been with Austin Regional Clinic now for 34 years, and we are still devoted to our original mission of population health. But I still missed the chance to work teaching the next generation of health care providers. About 15 years ago, Baylor College of Medicine and UT Southwestern offered student rotations, I jumped at the chance to precept students, and it continues to rekindle my love of medicine every month. Now, also being affiliated faculty at the new Dell Medical School has made my career even more rewarding. My passion is teaching, but in family medicine there is room for so many varied interests. Every doctor gets to cobble out their own unique medical character.
What is your favorite part of your career or practice?
When people ask me which part of medicine I like best, I’m prone to answer just, “yes.” There are overwhelming work days and tedious bureaucracy, but if it’s all part of creating a successful health care system, then every bit of it is worth it. There’s joy in all the little tasks we do together in a day of work, and there will always be inane inefficiencies in any human endeavor; but it’s all part a bigger mosaic of medicine. And, yeah, I love teaching.
We know you to be an extraordinary preceptor. What do you enjoy about being a preceptor?
It’s a fascinating dynamic, teaching in a private practice. The patients teach me new things every day. With the students, I just get out of the way. I’m the guide, not the teacher. I just introduce the student and tell the patient, “teach our medical student team member about your disease. Then see if you two can present me a good plan for today’s problem.” Today’s medical students come with such an advanced fund of education and brilliant minds. They have far more to teach me than I have to teach them. I just provide them the best setting I can for them to create their own learning.
What advice would you give to new preceptors? What about to students and residents?
In medicine, it’s so much about resiliency. For preceptors, don’t let teaching be intimidating. Just be willing to bring students in. Students teach themselves. Sometimes you know the answers to their questions, sometimes you don’t. You will role model who you are as a physician, and it’s for students to decide what they want to come away with. Sometimes they see exactly who they want to be in the future; sometimes they learn and remember an exact example of what they never want to be. Usually they are gracious enough to keep quiet while they witness those less ideal moments.
For students: Watch out for the hidden curriculum of disillusionment and bitterness that seeps in from all the hard work we do. Forgive that it happens, but don’t become it yourselves. Make up your minds up front, promise yourselves to remember the idealism you had at the start of medical school, and never let burnout and fatigue win. Burnout is the price of hard work against the immeasurable challenges in medicine. It’s just a way station, not the final path. Take on the whole identity of a being a doctor. It is a tremendous life to embrace.
What do you do with your free time outside of medicine?
This is a spot to talk about my family. I have a great life partner; my wife has had careers as a dietitian and a civil engineer. And we have raised two very talented and delightful children; our daughter is a first-year intern in OBGYN at the University of Pennsylvania, and our son is a nuclear engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Keeping up with this family is a full-time job outside of my full-time job.
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 or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.