Member of the Month: Vicky Bakhos Webb, MD, MBA
Third-year resident advocates for patients and her specialty
By Perdita Henry
When she was 5 years old, Vicky Bakhos Webb, MD, MBA, and her family fled their home in Beirut, Lebanon, during the Lebanese civil war to stay at a shelter. During their stay, Vicky noticed a doctor who treated the children staying at the shelter. She watched this woman, in awe of her bravery. The pediatrician “risked her life to drive under missiles and made sure their medical needs were met as best as she could,” she said. “I was fascinated by her demeanor, drive, and compassion. Everyone at the shelter smiled when she came around. I wanted to be her. I wanted to make that kind of difference.” It’s amazing how resilient children are and what they remember.
As she grew up and moved through her teen years, she dreamed of a career in medicine and of studying and training in the United States. In the summer of 2006, as she prepared for the MCAT, war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah and forced her to delay her plans to leave the country. Yet, she persisted, and continued her career journey through medical school and into residency. As she finishes up her residency training at Texas Tech University Health Science Center at the Permian Basin where she is chief resident, I got to talk to her about where she comes from, where she is headed, and why becoming involved with TAFP and AAFP was important to her career and the future as a she sees it.
Why did you to choose family medicine and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
I’m a people person. I wanted my skills to be broad and to touch all types of people from children to the elderly. I’m very passionate and fascinated about the science of medicine. I started medical school knowing I wanted to be a pediatrician, but during my third-year clinical rotations I realized I enjoyed every rotation. When I was on my pediatrics rotation, I missed taking care of the elderly and vice versa. During my family medicine rotation, I enjoyed procedures, patient interactions, and witnessing the family decision-making process. I felt like I belonged in family medicine.
What led you to West Texas?
My sister was a foreign exchange student in Midland, Texas. I came to visit her during Christmas break with the intent of attending university for pre-med studies in California the following summer. She happened to be staying with her best friend's family during Christmas break and they invited me to spend the vacation with them too.
As my trip came to a close, they offered me the opportunity to live with them while attending college in Midland. They were so welcoming and loving toward us during the Christmas break that I decided to cancel my flight back to Lebanon and stay on in Midland. It was the best decision I ever made.
I’m beyond blessed to have met such an amazing family. We were only teenagers when we moved in with them. They took my sister and I under their wings and helped us achieve our goals. Momma Chuck and Daddy Hillman, and my sisters and brother, Brooky, Holli, and Sambo, took in two teenagers from the Middle East with no expectations and opened their homes and hearts for us. They shared every heartache, failure, and success. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for them. They’ve become our second family and provided us with a place to call home in the states. I will forever be grateful to them — and the Midland/Odessa area — for accepting us wholeheartedly.
We have a large and vibrant international medical graduate community in Texas. What are some of the challenges and advantages you have as an IMG?
Being an IMG comes with many challenges. The stigma attached to being an IMG brings roadblocks by itself. Many IMGs come to the U.S. with extensive training and experience. They have completed residencies and were practicing physicians in their countries, but find it difficult to gain the respect of residency programs here. On top of fighting to prove themselves and secure residency positions, they have had to live away from their families, work low-paying jobs, take out loans, and dedicate years to research and graduate studies, just to be considered adequate enough to become a licensed physician in America. Some of my mentors — and the most amazing physicians I know — are IMGs.
On the bright side, even though the road tends to be more challenging, the end is rewarding. As an IMG, I’m able to appreciate and fully embrace where I am today. I learned that failure is the secret to success and that there’s nothing I couldn’t achieve with hard work and dedication.
Why is it important for you to be a member of AAFP and TAFP?
As an advocate for our profession and patients, I noticed that TAFP and AAFP was a platform to make our voices heard. They are the liaison that can turn our health care needs into policies. If we want to make a difference we cannot wait for it to happen. We cannot sit back and let others choose different options for us. Being a member of TAFP and AAFP means that I have connections to people with the same passions as me and opportunities to represent the specialty on both the state and national levels. I have a chance to make a difference in health care for both my colleagues and my patients.
You recently ran for, and won, a delegate position on AAFP’s Congress of Delegates during National Conference and you participate in several TAFP committees and commissions. What inspired you to make the leap into organizational leadership as a resident?
During my residency at Texas Tech University at the Permian Basin, my amazing and brilliant chairman and program director, Dr. Timothy Benton, encouraged me to become involved. I wanted to be the voice for residents, physicians, and patients on a state level from the beginning. One of my great attendings, Dr. Ikemefuna Okwuwa — who is very much involved with TAFP and AAFP — encouraged me to run for a TAFP resident position. After becoming involved with TAFP, I was inspired by how involved the residents were nationally, and I became even more inspired by their passion and drive. In fact, it was my friend, Dr. Jerry Abraham — who is also very active on both the state and national levels — who nominated me for the resident delegate position, and showed me the ropes for my AAFP Congress of Delegates run.
In Lebanon, you would never dream that residents could have a voice in improving the lives of our patients. I wanted to be part of making the policies that advocate for a well-designed universal public health care system and preserve the well-being of physicians and their patients.
What advice would you offer to other residents considering becoming more involved with TAFP and AAFP?
I would highly encourage all residents and medical students to become involved. We are the voice for our patients, the specialty, and the future of health care. If we don’t advocate for ourselves and our patients, who will? TAFP and AAFP are great organizations and resources. They can open doors and expose you to different opportunities available.
How can we attract more medical students to family medicine?
I believe one of the major drawbacks we’re facing is medical student debt. Students are attracted to specialties with higher earning potentials. It is important that we use our family medicine clinical rotations as a way to show how versatile and financially and emotionally rewarding our profession can be. It’s also vital to show and teach students that our lifestyle can be as challenging or laid back as we want it to be. A family doc can take calls every day and deliver babies if they choose or they can work at an outpatient clinic from 9 to 5.
It’s important to expose students to family medicine conferences and provide them with scholarship opportunities that allow them to experience how amazing and rewarding a family doc’s career can be. If we can get them to understand how essential we are to the health care system and the difference we can make within it, we might be able to attract more medical students to join family 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.