December 2022 Member of the Month
Member of the Month: Gerald Banks, MD
Corpus Christi doc a voice for other new physicians and international medical graduates
By Samantha White
Tell us about your career path and becoming an international medical graduate.
My path to medicine was a circuitous one. After high school in North Idaho, I earned a Bachelor of Science with pre-med emphasis from Boise State University, where I also had the opportunity to participate in the National Student Exchange. I chose the University of The Virgin Islands for its cultural diversity and snowless winters. I went from a school of 95% Caucasians to a school of 95% Afro-Caribbean students. As a minority for the first time, the experience allowed me to address many unconscious racial and cultural stereotypes. I eagerly emersed myself in island life, living in the student dorms instead of a private apartment like other exchange students. I made the varsity soccer team, which allowed me to travel around the Caribbean and create bonds with teammates while exploring the diverse island lifestyle.
While on St. Thomas, I volunteered at local health clinics and began my true love of medicine and helping others. After graduating college, I moved to southern California where I received my Master of Science degree in Molecular Biology and Kinesiology from CSU-Long Beach. During grad school, I fell in love with research and continued virus research for several years after completing my degree. After years in the lab, I found myself missing the direct patient care and applied to medical school in the Caribbean. This allowed me to return to the islands and culture I had grown to love years prior and to start immediately, which was a bonus as I was now a non-traditional student. After two clinical years on the island of Dominica, my final two years of medical school were spent in clinical rotations in Louisiana, Utah, California, and New York. I stayed on the east coast to complete my family medicine residency at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
During my residency, I fell in love with emergency medicine which still allowed me to see and treat all patients, from babies to geriatrics. For me, emergency medicine offers the full scope of patient diversity seen in family medicine with the bonus of multiple hands-on procedures that I absolutely love. A call from a crafty recruiter during my final year of residency set up my Texas migration. He notified me he had a great opportunity in south Texas, though we were looking to go back to California were my wife’s family lives. He flew me down to Corpus Christi and I’ll never forget it – it was 82 degrees, warm ocean breezes blowing, and clear blue skies. He took me out to seafood lunch on Padre Island and showed me around the emergency departments. We have grown to love South Texas and now call it our permanent home. After I bought my first cowboy hat my wife likes to joke “I knew we were here to stay!”
Who or what inspired you to become a family physician?
My mom was always the one supporting me the most and encouraging me to reach for the stars. I was the first in my family to go to college and my mom would say if you wanted to do it, we will make it happen. Working two jobs, she fought to provide for my brother and I and give us the best possible chance of success. Her strong work ethic and drive motivated me to become the man and physician I am today.
What has surprised you most about family medicine?
The incredible breadth of the specialty! With board certification in family medicine, you can really do almost anything. I have friends in direct primary care, sports medicine, hospitalist, geriatrics, OB, and even have a buddy doing full-time telemedicine from home, what a life! With family medicine you will never be bored and will always have options if you would like to change career paths or are feeling burned out. You don’t get that flexibility with other medical specialties.
Why do you choose to be a TAFP member?
I was actively involved in the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians during residency and was elected Resident Trustee to the Board in my last two years of residency. During this time, I represented the family medicine residents of New Jersey in Washington D.C. at the Family Medicine Congressional Congress. Here I learned the importance of advocating on behalf of family medicine to protect and preserve our broad scope of practice and improve payment models. I wanted to continue advancing the specialty of family medicine after completing residency, so after landing in Texas I sought out the TAFP. Together we are strong.
What led you to get involved with organized medicine and attend NCCL?
As a new physician and an international medical graduate, I find that NCCL gives me a voice that I might not have at the COD. I have been both a resident delegate and a special constituency delegate to the Congress of Delegates and both times I was able to advocate for resolutions supporting residents and new physicians. As a delegate, I introduced a resolution at NCCL for the AAFP to create a policy statement so family medicine physicians who are being displaced from emergency departments throughout the country could gain leverage back from hospital administrators looking to hire new EM residents. I fought hard for my resolution both on the committee floor, on the main floor, and behind the scenes with AAFP executives. I was honored when less than seven months later the AAFP had commissioned a legal opinion to aid family physicians practicing in the emergency department, based on my NCCL resolution.
What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?
I enjoy spending time with my family and traveling around this big, beautiful world.
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 email@example.com or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.