Member of the Month: Jerry Kirkland, MD, MBA, FAAFP
Amarillo family physician shines as an exemplary doctor and teacher in variety of settings
By Kate Alfano
Jerry Kirkland, MD, MBA, FAAFP, is a longtime member of TAFP who has experienced many different aspects of family medicine during his career, from a rural private practice with obstetrics and a suburban private practice to being a clerkship director and subsequently the director of a family medicine residency program for many years. He currently works as an academic hospitalist. As his nominator wrote, Dr. Kirkland’s “ability to reinvent his clinical roles professionally is emblematic of the diversity and flexibility within the specialty. He is also an exceptional teacher who has earned the respect of countless students and residents over the years.”
Who or what inspired you to become a physician?
I grew up on our farm in West Texas. We worked on equipment all the time for adjustment or repair that we used in our farming operations. As a result, I learned to work with my hands and to think diagnostically. While attending Texas A&M, I considered a degree in engineering but I was drawn to medicine to assist people who were hurting and companion with them in their journey to wellness. I felt a calling to serve others in their time of need.
Can you briefly describe your career path?
I attended Texas A&M University and graduated in 1982 with a degree in Biomedical Science. I graduated from Texas Tech University Health Science Center School of Medicine in 1986 and completed family medicine residency in Abilene at Hendrick Medical Center in 1989. Subsequent practice locations included rural practice in Dublin, Texas, group practice in Pampa, Texas, and suburban practice here in Amarillo, Texas. My practice has included newborn and adolescent care, adult medicine, and hospital medicine including intensive care. I obtained an MBA in medical practice management from Texas Tech University in 2003 to facilitate my medical practice efficiency.
My calling changed from affecting medicine one patient at a time to affecting medicine one doctor at a time in 2006. While in private practice, I was involved in teaching during shared call duties while rounding with family medicine residents. I joined the Department of Family Medicine at TTUHSC Amarillo in 2006 and worked as a hospitalist for two years. After transitioning to traditional faculty in 2008, I have served as clerkship director for medical student education, associate residency director and residency director for resident education in our department. My practice has been predominantly inpatient care while rounding with the residents in the hospital. I am currently an associate residency director in charge of our active hospital service. My experience is emblematic of the adaptability offered in family medicine as life changes occur in our personal lives.
What ultimately drew you to academics? What do you enjoy about teaching?
As my calling had changed, it has been my privilege to serve others through my practice. That service continues in teaching and mentoring students and residents as they pursue their calling in medicine. I enjoy not only the didactic teaching of students and residents but also the sharing of life together as these students and residents experience training challenges. I am honored to be a part of their lives during these formative years.
Academic medicine in a group setting gives us the opportunity to work together as a team to teach and mentor our students and residents and flexibility in schedules as life events occur. My sons played baseball and were in high school band. Our family shared in these activities together as that time is precious. It was important to me to be present at their games and concerts to cheer them on and to have those memories last a lifetime as we still talk about these events.
Why do you choose to be involved in organized medicine?
There is strength in numbers as we band together around common causes to benefit the health and welfare of our patients. We can also support each other in the struggles that each of us have as we gather together to meet and discuss the challenges of current day medicine.
What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?
My wife and I are active in our local church as we co-lead a home group meeting each week. I also play bass guitar in the Praise Team and have done so for a long time. It is our privilege to serve others through our church as we point them to Jesus.
We have owned several (10) houses through our married life of 34 years. We have renovated these houses to update and make them our style. My wife has a great eye to guide what would look good as we renovate. I worked on a framing crew in the summer between my first and second years of medical school. That experience taught me how to make these renovations in a structurally sound fashion. We watch “Fixer Upper” TV shows to get new ideas to improve our home.
I enjoy playing golf. We love traveling and have been to Hawaii several times.
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.