Member of the Month:
Li-Yu Mitchell, MD
Tyler physician brings a family medicine touch to wound care
By Perdita Henry
Li-Yu Mitchell, MD, was introduced to medicine at an early age but her relationship with it was complicated. “I grew up in Angleton, a small-town south of Houston,” Mitchell says. “My dad was the only OB-GYN in the town for about a decade. I was drawn to medicine because it was a way to hang out with my father. In high school I even helped in his office with writing insurance appeals. I saw the struggles he had with being on call all the time and missing family events.”
Balancing your personal and professional life can be a challenge in any field and because of those early experiences with her father’s professional obligations, Mitchell wasn’t so keen to head down the same path.
“When I entered Johns Hopkins University, I deliberately shied away from pursuing medicine because of my father’s lifestyle experience. I chose to focus on health policy instead,” Mitchell says.
She went on to obtain her master’s in Public Health Policy and began working in Washington, D.C. However, the satisfaction she found in helping to create health policy was short-lived.
“While I understood the broad impact of developing good health policy for the masses, having to wait for laws to be implemented was too slow for me,” Mitchell says. “I recognized that I personally needed to have the more immediate gratification of knowing I’ve made a difference in someone’s life. I needed tangible results. So, I chose to pursue medicine.”
Sixteen years out of residency, with three kids — a 6-year-old and a set of 9-year-old twins — and a husband of 18 years, Mitchell has found her way to balance the professional and the personal.
Why did you choose family medicine?
I chose family medicine because I loved every rotation I went through in medical school. I liked the broad scope of family medicine and the deep relationships that could be formed.
How do you champion family medicine?
I’ve limited my practice to the specialty of wound care and my approach to healing a patient with complex wounds has a comprehensive, family medicine, slant to it. By looking at the psychosocial aspects of the patient and how they ended up with their chronic wound, I am better able to heal them. I believe my family medicine training enables me to look far deeper than the disease process in front of me.
You were among the first TAFP members to participate in the Family Medicine Leadership Experience. How did that experience change you professionally and personally?
I was already performing some leadership duties in my community and I wanted to make sure I was as effective as possible. FMLE gave me more confidence in my own abilities.
How do you define leadership?
In my mind, a leader is someone who has the vision and desire to shoot for the moon. When they seek to accomplish something, they’re willing to put forth 200 percent of pure energy and sweat into making that vision a reality. I truly believe leading by example and listening to others along the way is the proper formula for success.
What advice would you give to physicians thinking about participating in FMLE?
Participating in FMLE is a good idea for physicians already doing some leadership locally and for those who haven’t.
I especially liked the sessions on negotiating techniques and how to speak with your legislators.
You were the president of your county medical society and are involved in public health activities. Why are these things important to you?
Getting involved in your community outside of the office setting is so important. It shows your patients that you care about them and really mean what you say about healthy behaviors.
For example, in 2014, I started the Tyler chapter of Walk With a Doc with a grant from the Texas Medical Association. Patients enjoy having free health education in a non-clinical setting with a non-intimidating physician who’s wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Having doctors walk with them demonstrates that physicians really do believe exercising is important.
I’ve also coordinated Hard Hats for Little Heads bicycle helmet giveaways as well as Be Wise–Immunize programs for my community, both programs funded through TMA grants. The presence of a physician volunteering outside of exam room walls shows the community we care about their health. In a world of 15 minute visits, I think this helps us reconnect with our patients in a meaningful way.
What public health initiatives do you wish more FPs would champion?
I would encourage family physicians to be involved in their local health districts and health departments. I’m a board member in my local health district. Family physicians have a much better understanding of the whole patient than any other specialty. There’s so much we can contribute in the discussion of population health issues — whether it is maternal health, mosquito control and Zika, food safety, disaster relief efforts, indigent health care, and so forth. Family physicians have a unique skill set, second to none. We have an immense amount to offer to the public at large.
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.