Member of the Month:
Ikemefuna Charles Okwuwa, M.D.
Resident dreams of teaching, tells first-years to “seize every opportunity”
Ikemefuna Charles Okwuwa, M.D., is a third-year resident and chief resident at Texas Tech Health Science Center Department of Family Medicine in Odessa, Texas. He is also President of House Staff at the Texas Tech Odessa Campus. Though now a U.S. citizen, he was born in Nigeria and received medical training at the School of Medicine at the University of Benin in Nigeria.
Dr. Okwuwa is active in TAFP, currently serving as alternate director representing resident members on the TAFP Board of Directors and as a member of the Commission on Health Care Services and Managed Care. He is also a member of the North American Primary Care Research Group and AAFP.
He enjoys reading, traveling, listening to music – especially operas – watching movies, horseback riding, soccer, and tennis, and is married to Joy. After residency, he plans to join his family medicine residency faculty and give back to future family physicians.
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? I chose family medicine because of the variety that it offers. It is quite fulfilling to see patients of varied ages with diverse medical problems. From a child with asthma to an elderly patient with dementia, a pregnant woman with no other medical problems to a middle-aged man with diabetes and hypertension, family medicine provides you with varied, interesting cases.
Being a primary care physician places me in a unique position to help my patients navigate the ever turbulent waters of our health care system. It helps you build lasting relationships and trust between you and your patients. A family practitioner can look after several generations of the same family (some of whom may have been delivered by the same family physician).
My favorite aspect of family medicine is obstetrics. It is great to see a healthy mother and infant at the end of nine months. Being the first person to welcome a newborn into this world is quite fulfilling.
What advice would you offer to first-years? My advice to first-years is to seize every opportunity they get to improve themselves. They should not feel intimidated when they start. It is a new environment for most, and with every new place, various expectations are required of them. No one expects them to know everything on the first day. What is needed is active growth in patient care, medical knowledge, procedural skills, good interpersonal relationships with colleagues and support staff. Ask questions when you have them; there is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to patient care. Great effort begets great achievements. It is your residency; stay focused on your goals, have an attitude for learning, and be active in TAFP.
What keeps you going during residency when the going gets tough? As in life, residency has many challenges. When the going gets tough, you talk to people you trust – spouse, mentor, parent, close friend, or colleague. Never try to be an island, make use of any support system at your disposal. We are privileged to have a clinical psychologist in our program who is available at all times to discuss confidentially with any troubled resident or staff. She also runs what we call a balint group every month where we as residents meet to discuss issues of concern to us. I find that singing also helps calm me down so I do a lot of that too. Exercise is also a very useful tool.
What is the best lesson you have learned in residency? I have learned to be patient and to listen.
What are your plans for after residency? My plan after residency is to become a faculty member in my department. I would love to give back that which I had freely received from the various faculty members in my program.
It is important for me to be a member of AAFP and TAFP because: they create an avenue to interact with other members of your profession; offer great CME, self assessment modules, leadership conferences, etc. TAFP is proactive legislatively and advocates for all its members.
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.