Member of the Month: Shaun Garff, DO
Community service and relationships with patients are key for this third-year resident
Community is something we often take for granted. Chatting with familiar people working in your grocery store, seeing the smiling faces at your local library, or a casual wave “hello” to your neighbor on your way to work. It’s easy to forget in a technology-dominated world that simple interactions with people in your community are important, too. In the day-to-day grind, we sometimes forget to wave, smile in return, or chat for a few minutes. As family physicians, you are often party to more intimate interactions with a community that values your insight and opinions. You hear about more than just health concerns.
Resident Shaun Garff, DO, has embraced the unique role of the family physician and he knows his influence on his patients is not something to take for granted. Learn what led him to champion the reading program Charlton Reads, what inspired him to choose family medicine, and what he envisions for the future.
What has been your favorite rotation, and why?
Being a family medicine resident, we have the opportunity to rotate with many different physicians in multiple specialties. We have tremendous teaching physicians here at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, who are passionate about what they do and love to teach. With my interest in sports medicine, I have really enjoyed my sports medicine and orthopedic rotations. I had great experiences rotating with cardiology, surgery, and pediatrics. Obviously, it is very difficult for me to choose a favorite rotation because all my experiences have been great.
I think the one thing I enjoy most is the fact that despite the rotation, we always get to come back to our home continuity clinic and see our own patients. I really enjoy getting to know these great people and love watching their lives change as they learn to become stewards of their own health.
What inspired you to create Charlton Reads?
Two main things influenced me to help start the Charlton Reads program in our clinic. First, the wonderful effects of similar programs that I have been a part of in previous clinics. I have watched the joy on the faces of many kids as they received their free book during their well child visits. I wanted to bring that spark to our clinic.
The second reason was to fill a need within our community of South Dallas. We see a high percentage of pediatric patients in our clinic and many of them are in need of positive influences in their lives. We felt like one way we could provide that influence was to promote early childhood reading to improve literacy, cultivate the bond between parent/caretaker and child, and most importantly set them up for future success. By simply encouraging our families to read to their kids daily, we can put our pediatric patients in a position to experience earlier literacy, higher graduation rates, and greater success throughout their lives. For me, it was a small thing we could do to make a big difference for our patients and they have absolutely loved it.
What are your hobbies?
In my limited spare time as a third-year resident, I love spending time with my family. I have a beautiful, hard-working, and supportive wife, Faith, and three fun and loving children, Cruz (6), Oakley (3), and Zuri (1). The best part of the day is seeing their reaction when I walk in the door after work – at least on the days I actually get home before they are in bed.
We love the outdoors, swimming, biking, and playing games together as a family. I am a huge sports fan – even to a fault according to my wife. I love playing and watching all sports. During residency, our program has won two league championships, one in softball and one in soccer. I love teaching my boy how to golf and am grateful for that kind man who gave my son his own mini set of golf clubs. I’ll never forget seeing my son’s face light up like it did that day.
I also enjoy technology, investing, and finance. I’ll take any chance I can get to take my wife and kids on a vacation and we love great restaurants, cooking together, and trying something new on the grill. Finally, following in the footsteps of my dad, I treasure the moments when I get to put my kids to sleep at night by playing some of their favorite songs on the guitar.
What are your future goals when you go into practice?
I am hoping to complete a primary care sports medicine fellowship following residency training. Ideally, I see myself in a community practice treating all ages in a general family medicine sense with the addition of sports-specific care and in-office procedure options. I want my practice to be a friendly and familiar place for my patients and their families from the environment to the staff to knowledge they receive at each visit. I want to be a consultant and advisor to my patients and help them feel like they are in charge of their health.
What is something the “real world” has taught you about being a family physician that medical school didn’t teach you?
True compassion. Despite classes on communication and the “non-medical” side of medicine, nothing prepares you better than being in the situation itself. One unforgettable experience I had as an intern was when we were taking care of a young mother in the hospital. The family had very limited resources and with four young kids and no place to live, the hospital room became a sanctuary for these kids, who would soon lose their mother to metastatic breast cancer. Our community rallied around this family and provided food, clothes, games, toys, etc. through clinic, neighborhood, and hospital-wide donations.
It was tough to see a situation like this and nothing can quite prepare you for it, but I witnessed true compassion and kindness towards this family. It taught me that despite the medical therapy not being sufficient to save this mother’s life, we were still able to make a difference. I learned that mental, emotional, and social support can be powerful and influential and at times stronger than any medicine we can provide or procedure we can offer. This to me is the true essence of being a physician, especially in family medicine.
What has your experience as a TAFP member been like?
I am a relatively new member of TAFP since moving to Texas about two years ago; however, we really value our membership as residents. The recourses that are provided to residents, in conjunction with the AAFP, are extremely helpful as we navigate through residency and explore and prepare for future career options.
How can we attract more medical students to family medicine?
Primary care is the future of medicine. There is so much that can be done on the “front lines” of medicine and being a family practice physician offers that experience. We need to continue to show students how great family medicine is and the opportunities it provides in life. I had a preceptor in medical school that always said, “The power in health care is shifting back to the family physician.” It is an exciting time to be in family medicine and we need to show that passion and excitement to the students. As they see and feel that energy, more will be drawn to this great field of medicine.
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.